What Caregivers Need to Know About Medicare
If you're a caregiver, you may be able to get help from Medicare for your loved one as well as for yourself.
You may qualify for tax breaks on the care you pay for. To qualify for these tax breaks, the person you provide care for must be a dependent. You might be able to claim a parent as a dependent if your parent lives with you and you provide more than half of his financial support. You can get all the details online at www.irs.gov or by calling 1-800-829-1040. Check for information on:
- Dependent care credit. This is a deduction you can take on your tax return. It applies if you pay someone else for caregiving services so that you can work.
- Medical expenses deduction. On your taxes, you may be able to deduct medical bills that you pay for your loved one. This includes the cost of long-term care insurance.
In addition to tax breaks, you may be able to be paid for some of the time you spend caregiving. Not all states have this Medicaid program. To find out if yours does, go online to the Medicaid Cash and Counseling Program (www.cashandcounseling.org). Scroll down to the Project Overview section and click on Our Program Map.
Your loved one's Medicare plan covers services that help with caregiving. You may be able to get:
Home health care that a doctor orders. You may be able to get part-time skilled nursing care and a home health aide to help your loved one. Your loved one can also get physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. Oxygen, a hospital bed, and a walker also are possible.
Of course, whatever is ordered must be medically necessary. You must use a home health agency that Medicare has approved. Keep in mind that the doctor must re-order the care and equipment every 60 days.
Hospice care, also called end-of-life care. A loved one who is terminally ill can get hospice care at home, if his or her doctor believes he or she may not live more than 6 months. Or, your loved one may go to a special hospice care center.
Here's how hospice helps:
- For your loved one: Hospice controls the level of pain. It offers emotional and spiritual support.
- For you: Hospice can help you cope with grief. It also offers respite care, which means someone else fills in as caregiver so you can get a break.