Many people wonder if there is a way to get paid to be a caregiver to a family member.
The answer is: sometimes.
And it’s probably not going to be very much money.
There are very many programs that provide financial support for family caregivers. They vary depending on your geographic location, your demographics, and the person you’re caring for.
You’re most likely to qualify for pay if you’re caregiving for a US military veteran.
You also have good odds of getting financial help if the person you’re caring for qualifies for Medicaid.
This article provides an overview of available programs so you can determine which ones you may qualify for. I include where to go for more information. You can also use this information to help unlock services by asking a social worker about programs that might be able to help you.
Government programs that pay family caregivers
Administration on Aging & Department of Aging Services
Each state and county provides different services for the Administration on Aging. Some programs will provide stipends, reimburse caregivers for supplies, offer training, and provide respite. Paying for Senior Care maintains a list of Area Agencies on Aging and Disability Resource Centers that’s searchable by state and county.
Guardians of children
Guardians of disabled children who are not their biological or adopted children can become subsidized guardians. This allows relatives to receive financial help to care for children and keep them out of foster care.
Structured Family Caregiving
In some states, family caregivers of Medicaid recipients can be paid through the Structured Family Caregiving program. In order to participate, you must be referred by your local Agency on Aging, which is typically run at the county level. The program is run by Caregiver Homes. Caregiver Homes is available in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, and Indiana, and will be in other states soon.
- The person receiving care must be eligible for Medicaid and deficient in at least 3 of 5 activities of daily living: dressing, bathing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, walking, or getting in and out of bed.
- Caregivers and patients must live together.
- Stipends typically range between $900 and $1,200 a month, depending on the level of care.
- You will be assigned a registered nurse and a care manager who will meet with the caregiver and patient to develop a care plan and will provide ongoing coaching, training, and other support.
Some states allow workers who are fired or forced to quit their jobs because of their caregiving responsibilities to collect unemployment. Check with your state unemployment office to see if this is an option for you.
Medicaid provides self-directed services for people in need of long-term care. These programs allow the care recipient to hire you to provide home care.
Benefits, coverage, eligibility and rules are different in each state. Some states allow spouses and guardians to be hired as caregivers, others don’t. Others restrict pay to people who live outside the home of the care recipient.
Medicaid varies by state, so contact your local Medicaid office to find out if you may qualify.
The programs have different names in different locations. It may be called:
- Cash and Counseling
- Medicaid Waiver
- Consumer Directed Care
- Participant-Directed Services
- In-Home Supportive Services
If your Medicaid office isn’t responsive, the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services can help connect you to the state programs that allow the patient to decide how to spend their health care money – sometimes including the option to pay a family member for care.
Unfortunately, Medicare does not pay for in-home care or adult day services.
Resources for people providing care to US military veterans
Veterans and their surviving spouses may be eligible for additional pension payments if they require home health aids or other assistance or are housebound because of a disability.
The Aid & Attendant pension and Housebound benefits are two separate programs that have a common application system. The veteran you’re providing care to may qualify for either, but can only enroll in one of the two programs.
Post 9/11 veterans
The caregivers of disabled post-9/11 veterans may be eligible to receive a monthly stipend, health insurance coverage, caregiver training, counseling, and respite care for one primary family caregiver and up to two secondary family caregivers.
This program may also be known as the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
Veterans who qualify for nursing home placement may also qualify for the Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services program. Veterans in this program may hire their own personal care aids, including family members.
This program may also be called Veteran Directed Care.
VA medical centers determine eligibility and oversee the program, which is not available in all states.
Private sources of financial support for family caregivers
Paid family leave
Some states and territories, including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, and Washington D.C. allow employees to take time away from their regular jobs in order to provide care to a family member.
Disease or condition specific organizations
Some private organizations will provide stipends or grants to support caregivers. Organizations who offer this each have their own requirements, so contact a social worker to find out more.
Sometimes parents will recognize the financial hardship their care causes family members and will pay their family members to care for them. This may take the form of an adjustment in the amount of inheritance or some other creative reimbursement. Sometimes relatives will pool their money to pay the primary family caregiver. It’s wise to write a caregiver contract and check with an elder care benefits planner or elder law attorney if you decide to go this route, as it can have implications on Medicaid eligibility, taxes, and inheritance.
There’s also the possibility that family members could share the cost of caregiving, so it’s not all falling on one person.
It’s important to make sure family members are in agreement. Finances can bring out the worst in families, especially during stressful times. You may consider family mediation services – the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys can help you if you’re caring for an aging relative.
Long-term care insurance
Certain types of long-term care insurance will pay for in-home assistance, including family caregivers. These types of policies are relatively unusual and most exclude people who live in the same household from being paid. These types of plans tend to be significantly more expensive. Talk to your insurance agent to learn more.
What if none of these programs will help you?
Even if you can’t get paid to serve as a family caregiver, you may be eligible for programs that will cover adult day services, in-home support, or other ways to ease the financial burden.
Department of Welfare
Caregivers may qualify for other programs, including cash assistance, food subsidies, and medical assistance. Check with your state welfare office for more information.
Resources for those over 55
Social service organizations
There are numerous organizations that provide grants or emergency assistance to families. Many of these are specific to location, employment history, and condition. Organizations will provide grants for rent, mortgages, and utilities. Other organizations provide support for food, medication, supplies, and grants for home modifications to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Each agency has its own eligibility requirements, so you will need to search online by specific needs, contact a local social worker, or discuss it with hospital staff.
If you’re caring for a relative and provide for more than half of their basic living expenses, you may be able to claim them as a dependent on your taxes. You may also be able to deduct their medical expenses, even if you can’t claim them as dependents. Visit the IRS website or call the IRS help-line at 800-829-1040. You can also talk to an accountant about these options.
Working while serving as a caregiver
Some companies are more caregiver-friendly than others. Your company may allow you to work part-time, have flexible hours, work from home, or provide additional time off. Or they may not.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible workers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Some companies even have employee assistance programs. Check your employee handbook to see if your company has set policies. Go over the options with your supervisor and HR before you make any big decisions.
Getting help is possible
It isn’t easy and it isn’t enough, but help is out there. Find out where other caregivers have found help and how it turned out.
Do you use one of these programs? Have you tried to enroll? Is there another program we should know about? Please let us know in the comments.
Do these programs really work?
Skeptical that these programs will really be worth the effort? We’ve talked to hundreds of caregivers using these programs about how much help they’re getting and how they make ends meet. Find out what they have to say.
As Director, Cori develops our comprehensive global communications and development strategy. She’s constantly tweaking our services based on data-driven marketing metrics and feedback from caregivers. She works to grow our community and build the reputation of The Caregiver Space by amplifying the message on social media, cultivating relationships with experts, creating organizational partnerships, and earning media coverage. She’s an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for Caregivers.
Cori joined The Caregiver Space after a decade of serving as a communications consultant for a number of nonprofit organizations and corporations furthering sustainable energy and urban planning solutions.
Cori has an MA in Corporate Communications from Baruch College at CUNY and a BA in Media Studies from Eugene Lang College at the New School University. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Toronto.