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Michigan’s Home Help program supports caregivers — but the need dwarfs its scope

Home Help is one of a handful of programs that compensate caregivers of Michigan residents who otherwise would need residential nursing care, adult foster care or a home for the aged.

Such assistance can serve as a bulwark against the very real financial burdens facing family caregivers in the state.

If you have Medicaid and require physical assistance with at least one “activity of daily living” — such as eating, bathing, dressing, moving around the house, using the toilet, or another designated task — you can apply for Home Help to fund your home caregiver in providing those services.

Other services that Home Help may cover include administering medicine, doing laundry, light housework, preparing meals, shopping for food and medical necessities, and more complex tasks including tube feeding, catheter care and respiratory treatment (a home provider would need formal training to perform more complex tasks).

Home Help funding cannot be paid to a spouse, a parent caring for a minor child, a minor 17 or younger, or a fiscal intermediary; go to for additional eligible services, allowable hours, and how to apply.

In July 2023, Home Help listed some 30,100 individual providers on its rolls, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which has administered the program since the 1980s. Home Help also funds qualifying in-home services from 833 agency providers. In total, these providers cared for a combined 60,820 people in July, Sutfin said.

“Research has shown that people are happier living in the community,” Sutfin said. “As a fee-for-service program, there are no waiting lists. If someone is eligible, services are provided.”

Thanks to Home Help, nearly 61,000 Michigan residents are receiving paid services, mostly from family caregivers, to help them stay at home. Yet, this is arguably a modest share of those needing assistance in a state with 1.2 million family caregivers who provide an estimated $1.1 billion in unpaid care annually, according to the AARP.

The ceiling for Medicaid eligibility may be a limiting factor for Home Help, many say. To qualify in Michigan in 2023, you must have a monthly individual income of $1,215 or less — or for nursing-home eligible seniors, $2,742 including Social Security, wages and pension for the MI Choice or PACE home waiver program. Additional assets must be valued at or less than $2,000.

These numbers could vary, depending on circumstances.

“Like many other industries in the U.S., Home Help struggles to find enough caregivers,” Sutfin said. “Although 85% of individual caregivers are family members, the remaining 15% are made up of family friends or people they know in the community.”

Finally, “the Home Help rate is lower than many other programs, making it difficult for clients to recruit new providers,” she said. In October, wages for Home Help providers increased to between $13.30 and $14.20 an hour. “We are currently exploring ways to promote the program so more people know this resource exists,” Sutfin added.

“I am sure conversations are happening with the Medicare Advantage plans,” said Kristie King, executive director of the Southeast Michigan Senior Regional Collaborative, which represents more than 40 organizations and agencies that service and champion older adults, persons with disabilities, and caregivers. “It would be important to consider how to best pair these programs," which could allow more flexibility in caregiver support.

“This is the future of care for our Michigan seniors,” King said.

The collaborative launched this year its “Change the Care Conversation Coalition,” a rapidly expanding caregiver alliance kindled with startup funds from the multi-state Grantmakers in Aging organization. “We are elevating the voice of the family caregiver, who knows what is needed and best for them,” King said.


This story was produced through the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations and universities dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about successful responses to social problems. The reporting is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.

The collaborative’s series, Invisible Army: Caregivers on the Front Lines, focuses on potential solutions to challenges facing caregivers of older adults.