Financial Help for Caregiver of Cancer Patient

Updated on June 06, 2012
S.M. asks from Zanesville, OH
13 answers

Hi ladies. I'm trying to find some answers for my aunt, and I'm having no luck searching online.

My grandma was recently diagnosed with a very aggresive form of breast cancer. My aunt is her primary caregiver, as she lives 2 blocks down the road from her, and the rest of us live several hours away. We do what we can to help, such as sending gift cards to pay for groceries, or driving out to take grandma to chemo. But the majority of the work still falls on my aunt, including cleaning, yard work, you name it.

We just learned that the chemo is not helping, so they want to do a double masectomy. My grandma will need someone with her 24/7 for the first 2 weeks of her recovery. My aunt has already used all her vacation time at work to take grandma to her treatments, doctor appointments, etc. She can take more time off without losing her job, but it would be unpaid, and she cannot afford to do that.

My grandma is on Medicaid, and her insurance is covering the treatments, but she lost her unemployement benefits and my aunt is having to help with utility bills, etc. Moving in with her is out of the question (long story). No one else can take off work & leave their family to go stay with grandma for 2 weeks either.

Is there any financial assistance my aunt could get to help with all these expenses? Thanks for your help!

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answers from Kansas City on

There should be a social worker at the hospital that might be able to help. Please don't take this the wrong way, but nobody else can help for that two weeks? If my mother, MIL, sister, SIL, or grandmother was having a double mastectomy, wild horses couldn't drag me from her side! Maybe 2 or 3 people can all take a few days. Clearly grandma is very sick and a little family support will go a long way...just some food for thought.

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answers from Columbus on

I'm sorry your family is going thru this; I just went thru a lot of this with my Daddy - altho, thank God, he had enough money socked away that we were able to take care of him without money problems up to the end. (My Mommy had gone first and he took care of her up to the end.) BUT, having said that - I would suggest you all contact a lawyer for help - first of all, you mention she is using MedicAID - not Medicare; there is a BIG difference - if it's MedicAid, her family will be required to pay the money back! I would check on this!!

Also, you should have a family meeting and pool your resources so all the burden is not on just your aunt - and I'm not talking just finances. That is definitely NOT fair! I live two hours away from my Daddy and I went down two, sometimes three, times a week to relieve my two sisters and be with my Daddy - yes, it was hard on me and my family but I don't regret it one second.

Have you checked on short-term nursing homes? That's definitely an option!! Is she also in Ohio? Check your county's website - I think it's the Ohio Job & Family Services - they should be able to help. Does she belong to a church? They might be able to help in some way.

It sounds like she has other children? It bothers me that no one can take off work/leave their family, etc..... This is how I looked at it: my parents did EVERYTHING they could to raise me and when it was my turn to take care of them, I did EVERYTHING I could to make sure they were well taken care of! If it meant I would miss work, or even lose my job, I didn't care! They busted their butts and didn't think twice about what was required when they had us kids; I didn't think twice when it was time to take care of them.

My Mom also had breast cancer but never got the chance to fight it; she had a massive stroke and was gone the very day she was to start her treatments. After that, we all took care of my Daddy; not knowing it was only going to be for 18 months:(

Good luck!!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Here is a link to a forum for breast cancer caregivers that you should ask this question of.

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answers from Columbus on

There's a non-profit agency called Patient Advocate Foundation that helps find resources - they know all that are available throughout the coutnry and will even help you apply. Call 1-800-532-5274 and you'll be assigned a case manager who can help!

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answers from Boston on

I am sorry to hear all this. Its your Grandma that needs to get more financial assistance. I really do not think your Aunt should have to pay for your Grandma
s house too. I think either family needs to step in and help more or make arraignments for Grandma to go to rehab or possibly a nursing home. I feel horrible for her situation. Your Aunt is a wonderful person for helping her. But it might be to much for her also.

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answers from Appleton on

Medicare does cover home health care but only covers a nurse to come in to check vitals, wound care ect and make sure she is getting her medication and sometimes to call the pharmacy to order renewals on medication. Sometimes they order all Rx through a mail order pharmacy. This would also include a CNA to come in and help her take a shower or give her a bed bath. Sometimes they will make a simple meal.
If she is with a hospice they will often have volunteers who will come in and keep the patient company, play cards, or just be in the home while the patient sleeps so the primary caregiver can get out to get groceries or run other errands or do yard work.
As far as your aunt being paid to care for her mother, they both need to meet financial standards. Contact Medicare for more info.

I cared for my Mom for 8 months before she passed and because my Mom had a sizeable bank account Medicare would not pay me to care for her. I had power of attorney so I just wrote myself checks from Mom's account to cover my needs. We shared a house.
You will need to check the laws on your state concerning nursing homes or assisted living. In Wisconsin the homeowner has the sign the deed to the home over to the person they want to have the house 7 years before they enter a nursing home. The nursing home will attach all money they have in the bank, any investments and the house for payment. Nursing home costs are $5000/month and they do basically a monthly bank withdrawal from the funds in the bank, until the money is gone, then the investrments then the house. So if they have $100,000 in the bank and a home worth $100,000 in 40 months or less then 3.5 yrs the money is gone. Then they can qualify for Medical Assistance to pay for their nursing home fees. A lawyer can help the family decide how to distrubute the funds so grandma is taken care of and not left with nothing.
Medicare will sometimes pay the nursing home fees but only if it is rehabilitation and the plan is to go home when rehab is done.

I hope this helps.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with Kristen M. I don't see how nobody else can come help out? God bless your aunt for stepping up- but your grandma does have other children, etc. Would you be there if it was her funeral? Harsh, but find it hard to believe nobody else can do so.

At the very least, I'd say, if it is your aunt, that the family members involved at least pool together to cover what her salary would be if it were unpaid. As far as finances, your aunt should pay no more than anyone else just because she's close by. Obviously physical time and visiting is different, but finances should be shared....

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answers from Sacramento on

You might check to see if Medicaid covers home healthcare services. I have no idea if it does, but that's what your grandma would really benefit from during her recovery.



answers from Pittsburgh on


Check this out: (FAQs)

1. Can I get paid to care for a family member?

Most likely you cannot, but there are some exceptions. Very few programs will pay family members or friends on a regular basis to provide care. Medicare (government health insurance for people age 65 and older) does not pay for community-based long-term care services, such as in-home care and adult day services, whether or not such services are provided by a direct care worker or a family member. Sometimes, however, caregiving families may obtain some financial relief for specific purposes, such as for respite care or to purchase goods and services.

For example, the Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP), a federally supported program, provides services to help ease the financial burden of caregiving to a person 60 years and older. This program is available through your local department on aging. Services include: information and assistance; counseling and support groups; education and training; respite care to give you a break; and supplemental services, including the purchase of consumable supplies, emergency response systems and home modifications.

Also, national disease-specific organizations, such as CancerCare, may offer grants or other financial assistance to people with the disease and their family caregivers. For more information about disease-specific organizations active in your area, click here to select your state.

Another resource for family caregivers is the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services, which has created a listing (and interactive map) of Medicaid programs in each state.
Your state may offer additional support programs for family caregivers. For example, in some states, the Medicaid program (government health insurance for low-income people – this program may go by a different name in your state), will provide money to pay family members to provide care to Medicaid recipients. For information about the services your state provides to family caregivers and the benefits for which you or your family member may be eligible, contact:

Benefits Checkup
An online service of the National Council on Aging to help older adults and their families find and enroll in federal, state, local and private benefit programs.

Eldercare Locator
Connects older Americans (60+) and their caregivers with the local Area Agency on Aging's Family Caregiver Support Program, state Medicaid program, and community-based organizations.

Here's the website this is from:



answers from Chicago on

Check with the human services dept with your state. My mom took care of my grandmother when she was very sick. She was able to have a nurse come for several hours a day. Since my mom did not work any longer, she was avaialble more but I believe there are programs in each state to assist when needed. The human services dept can help or give you contacts.



answers from Columbus on

I would strongly urge your family to explore palliative care for grandma. Palliative care focuses on keeping up a good quality of life, instead of just focusing on treating the disease. Is it going to improve Grandma's quality of life to do a double mascetomy if it will only give her 6 months more to live, in pain from the surgery?

Sorry--the above is not a criticism. But too many times doctors forget that the patient's quality of life is at least if not more important than how long she lives.

Check with the hospital where she is being treated, and ask for assistance from a social worker there. They can help explore options to help provide support to the family. Cancer support groups are also excellent resources to help point you toward help. Hospice is another source for assistance & info on what is available/possible.


answers from San Francisco on

Check with your local American Cancer Society. I know two people (both unemployed during their treatments) who have received assistance through them!


answers from Milwaukee on

Your aunt may qualify for the FMLA (family medical leave act) through her employer.

ETA - I don't think she would get paid though. I wanted to delete this but could not figure out how. :)

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