Massachusetts Medicaid Program Pays Family Caregivers

A groundbreaking program in Massachusetts is expected to ease the financial burden on families with elderly or disabled relatives in need of care by paying family or friends about $18,000 a year to care for them.

On December 1, 2006, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Office of Medicaid launched the Enhanced Adult Family Care Program, which is intended to both help address a shortage of professional caregivers and fulfill the wishes of most elderly and disabled to receive needed care in their own homes.

The program is run by MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program, and has a $2 million budget. To be eligible for the program, those requiring care must meet asset and income requirements and must need assistance with at least three basic activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, or with the management of behavior.

Those eligible to be paid as caregivers include most family members and friends other than legally responsible relatives like a spouse or parent. The elderly or disabled person can either move in with the caregiver or the caregiver can move into the elderly or disabled person's home. Caregivers in the program also receive support from SeniorLink, a nationwide network of credentialed care managers.

Although Al Norman, the executive director of Mass Home Care, considers the $18,000 to be 'abysmally low,' he said the program relieves some pressures on the families because they no longer have to search for new caregivers or housing and this helps to keep people out of institutions.