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How to Navigate Health Programs

Read a transcript of an online chat with Judy Peres, a long-term and palliative care expert

Judy Peres: Hi, Bob. I can understand your need for help bathing your mom. Unfortunately, as I mentioned to Patricia — Medicare does not cover supportive services. There are additional senior services that you can find in your community by checking with your state unit on aging:

Comment From dibo: I have the impression that you are not qualified for Medicare and Medicaid if you have retirement money. You need to spend your money first to get them. How much money may you have but still qualify for them? It sounds like a penalty to those saving for retirement. Hope I am wrong.

Judy Peres: There is no financial qualification for Medicare. Medicaid is for people with limited incomes and assets. The amount to qualify can vary by state. Generally, it is about $2,000 (excluding your home and car) in assets, but there are protections for spouses and dependents.

Comment From Germaine Walker: I lost my job Oct. 29, 2009. I drew unemployment for two years. I was caring for my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007 and my brother who has Down syndrome. I have been caring for them since 2005, making sure my mother was taking her meds and my brother was taken care of as well, since my mother was his caregiver after my father passed away at the age of 57 in 1986. I am the oldest (58 years), my sister who lives in Miami (54), and my brother who is 43. I've worked in skilled nursing facilities all my life so I won't be putting her in one. My question is how do I go about getting paid for being a caregiver for my mother and brother?

Judy Peres: Unfortunately, Medicare does not have any program to pay a family caregiver. In many states Medicaid has a program to directly pay a person needing home care and that person can use the money to pay a family member (or another of their choosing) to provide that care. These programs, known as Cash and Counseling, give people with disabilities, including older adults, the option to manage a flexible budget and decide what mix of goods and services best meet their personal care needs. Participants may use their budget to hire personal care workers, purchase items and make home modifications that help them live independently. Those recipients who don't feel confident making decisions on their own may appoint a representative to make decisions with or for them. To find out whether your state has a Cash and Counseling or similar program, contact your local Medicaid, human services or social services office. Also, you can visit The National Resource Center for Participant Directed Services. The project overview section has a "Program Map" for you to see what is available in your state.

Comment From Joe: In general what are the age limits for acceptance to long-term care insurance?

Judy Peres: Age limits can vary depending on the private insurance. Generally, it is around age 80.

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