What Caregivers Need to Know About Medicare and Medicaid

Medically Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on June 20, 2022
3 min read

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 or parents live with you and you provide more than half of their 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 called Cash and Counseling. To find out more information on paqying for care, try the Administration on Aging or the National Institute of Aging websites.

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 their doctor believes they 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.

You may have to pay for most long-term care services. You can get help from Medicare or Medicaid only in certain cases.

Medicare will pay for:

  • Short stays in a nursing home after a hospital stay and only if rehabilitation or skilled services are needed from a nurse or special therapist

Medicare won't pay for:

  • Long-term care at home. For instance, the every day help your loved one might need to wash or get dressed is not covered.
  • A permanent move to assisted living or a nursing home

Medicaid may pay for:

  • Nursing home care if your loved one cannot afford to pay for it

You may need help finding services for the loved one you're caring for. Or, you might need help for yourself.

Keep in mind that getting time off from caregiving can make you a better caregiver. Respite services can help you with a task or give care while you take a break.

To find out what's offered where you live:

  • Contact your local Area Agency on Aging. To find the agency near you, go online to eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx. Or call 1-800-677-1116.
  • Use the Family Care Navigator. Call 1-800-455-8106. Or go online to www.caregiver.org. (Click on "Connecting Caregivers" then "Service by State")

To learn more about Medicare and caregiving:

  • Go online to medicare.gov for details on what is and is not covered.
  • Talk to your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIPs). These are staffed by people who know Medicare and can answer you questions for free. They are paid by the federal government so they can offer unbiased advice.

If your family member is a veteran, you may qualify for caregiving support from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

To learn about respite care for yourself: