About 22% of adults over age 45 reported being a caregiver to a loved one in the last 30 days in a study conducted from 2015 through 2017. Some Medicare benefits could help pay for care that might give those friends and family members a break.

These benefits may come from Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans. Private insurance companies offer these plans, and they must offer at least the same benefits as the government-administered original Medicare (Part A and Part B). In fact, Medicare Advantage plans may have more benefits than original Medicare.

Home care services can provide a hand to friends and family members who are caregivers. Medicare covers care given at home when it is medically necessary and fewer than 8 hours per day or 28 hours per week. Covered services may include:

  • skilled nursing services
  • physical therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • medical social work services
  • injectable medication
  • part-time or occasional health aides

This does not include 24-hour care or help with daily living tasks, like meal preparation and bathing, unless the person is also receiving skilled nursing care.

Skilled nursing facilities provide in-patient care to people who need services like physical therapy or daily medications. When a person is admitted to a care facility, usually while recovering from an injury or illness, Medicare covers meals, a semi-private room, and supplies.

This does not include long-term care, such as in an assisted living residence.

Original Medicare pays for skilled nursing care after 3 days. Medicare Advantage plans may begin paying sooner.

Social workers are health professionals who help people work through challenges that come up in everyday life. They can connect older adults to resources, provide counseling, and coordinate with family members on care plans.

Social work services are covered under Medicare Part B. The person receiving services is usually responsible for 20% of the cost of care.

Occupational therapy is professional care to help a person improve or maintain skills they need for independent living, such as bathing or dressing. Physical therapy helps people improve their body’s movement.

Both services may be medically necessary in the case of an injury or health condition and may help slow physical decline.

Medicare Part B covers occupational and physical therapy services. The person receiving the services is usually responsible for 20% of the cost of care.

Speech-language pathology services help people strengthen their speech skills. It can also help if they have trouble with swallowing and eating.

Medicare Part B covers speech pathology services when they are medically necessary. The person receiving services is usually responsible for 20% of the cost of care.

Medicare Part B covers equipment that might help people who are receiving care at home. This makes it easier for caregivers to provide support.

Durable medical equipment includes items such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen equipment. Caregivers may need to rent or buy the equipment, or they may be able to choose between renting or buying.

After the Part B deductible is met, Medicare pays 80% of the cost of medical supplies and equipment.

Original Medicare does not cover meal delivery services. The program covers meals only in in-patient settings.

Some Medicare Advantage plans do offer coverage for meal delivery. If a person qualifies for the service, it can ease a caregiver’s burden.

The plan may limit the number of days that meal delivery is covered, and a healthcare professional may need to certify that meal delivery is medically necessary.

Is it a heart attack?

Heart attacks occur when there is a lack of blood supply to the heart. Symptoms include:

  • chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • pain that may spread to arms, neck, jaw, or back
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweaty or clammy skin
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing or wheezing
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  2. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

If a person stops breathing before emergency services arrive, perform manual chest compressions:

  1. Lock fingers together and place the base of hands in the center of the chest.
  2. Position shoulders over hands and lock elbows.
  3. Press hard and fast, at a rate of 100–120 compressions per minute, to a depth of 2 inches.
  4. Continue these movements until the person starts to breathe or move.
  5. If needed, swap over with someone else without pausing compressions.

Use an automated external defibrillator (AED) available in many public places:

  1. An AED provides a shock that may restart the heart.
  2. Follow the instructions on the defibrillator or listen to the guided instructions.
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Friends and family provide essential care to their loved ones. Medicare does not pay for care for daily living tasks such as housekeeping, meal preparation, and hygiene.

However, some Medicare-covered services, like home healthcare and medical equipment, can help make tasks easier for caregivers and provide them with some relief.