Dear Savvy Senior: Do you know of any resources that can help with my mother’s home-care bills? Mom is recovering from a stroke and needs in-home care, but I understand Medicare doesn’t cover it, and she doesn’t have long-term care insurance. — Stressed-Out Daughter
Dear Stressed-Out: Depending on your mom’s circumstances, a number of government and not-for-profit programs could either subsidize or pay for your mom’s home care or offer aid in other ways. Here’s where to look for help:
If your mom is recovering from a stroke, the first thing you need to know is that Medicare does cover a variety of in-home health care services. To be eligible your mom must be “homebound,” and her doctor will need to approve a “plan of care” confirming that she needs skilled-nursing care or skilled-therapy services. Her doctor can also request the services of an occupational therapist and a nonmedical home aide to assist with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing and using the bathroom.
But, be aware that Medicare will not pay for nonmedical home aide services alone, if your mom does not need nursing or therapy services too. Homemaker services, such as shopping, meal preparation and cleaning are not covered.
For more information on how this works, call 800-MEDICARE or see Medicare.gov/coverage/home-health-services.html.
If you mom’s income is low enough, she may qualify for Medicaid, which offers different programs that can pay for nonmedical home care, home health care and other in-home support services. These programs, referred to as Home and Community Based Services, are state-specific and eligibility and benefits vary. To find out if your mom is eligible, contact her state Medicaid agency (Medicaid.gov).
If your mom doesn’t qualify for the Medicare or Medicaid options, check to see if she qualifies for state-funded home-care programs that may provide caregivers or vouchers to help pay for care. Contact the Area Agency on Aging near your mom at ElderCare.gov or 800-677-1116.
If your mom is a veteran, or a surviving spouse of a veteran, the VA also offers some benefits that can help pay her in-home care.
One is Aid and Attendance or Housebound Allowances, which are supplemental monthly benefits for veterans already receiving a monthly VA pension and requiring healthcare.
Veterans and surviving spouses qualify if they have certain disabilities or need help with activities such as dressing, bathing, and feeding. Go to Vets.gov/pension for more information.
Another option is the Veteran-Directed Care program. This program provides up to $2,000 a month that can be used to pay a professional, family member or friend for home care. Visit the “Home and Community Based Services” section at VA.gov/geriatrics.
To look for additional programs, go to PayingForSeniorCare.com and use the Eldercare Financial Assistance Locator tool.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.