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Does Social Security Pay for Caregivers?

By July 20, 20213 min read

When a loved one needs help, family members are usually the first people to volunteer their services. A 2020 study conducted by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving determined that almost 50 million Americans provide unpaid care for family or friends at an average of 24 hours per week. A separate 2021 study indicated that almost 80% of family caregivers incur an average of $7,200 in out-of-pocket costs for this care.

Many people take on debt or stop saving money of their own to provide for their loved ones. AARP estimates that unpaid family caregivers can expect to pay up to 20% of their income in care-related costs. And if they have to leave the workforce to provide at-home care, there will be ramifications for their own retirement benefits.

Unfortunately, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or retirement benefits through Social Security will not pay for caregiving directly. Beneficiaries can use the funds they receive from any of these programs to pay for the care of their preference; oftentimes, however, these funds are needed to meet basic living expenses, and there is not enough to cover the cost of care at home from a loved one.

Many SSI beneficiaries also qualify for Medicaid. Although the individual states run Medicaid programs, and each state has its own criteria for how to qualify for assistance, there are some conditions under which Medicaid will provide for caregiver benefits.

Many people associate Medicaid with long-term care in nursing homes, but a lot of states have designed their own programs that allow for home care instead. These consumer-directed care programs go by many names, including Medicaid State Plan Personal Care Programs and Medicaid HCBS Waivers, and the following services may be available to you if you qualify for Medicaid: caregiver support; help with household chores like shopping, laundry, and other home care services; medical equipment; in-home health care; personal care services like eating, moving, and bathing; and minor accessibility modifications to the home.

Other programs may be able to help with the cost of at-home care. For example, if you or your spouse served in the military, at-home caregiving services may be available through Veterans Affairs. The National Council on Aging also has a Benefits Checkup Program that allows you to type in your zip code on their website to find resources in your area. Additionally, if your loved one has long-term care insurance, the policy pay provide for assisted living, nursing care, or at-home care.

If you or someone you love needs care but does not have the financial resources to pay for it within the home, do research on which services may be available to you in your state and consider consulting with a trusted attorney or a financial planner to explore the scope of your options.