Illness in your retirement


There is a range of payments and services available to support older people who become ill or acquire a disability. The payments and services you are entitled depend on your age and on your needs. The Department of Social Protection is responsible for the payments mentioned below except where otherwise stated.

Income supports for older people


If you are already getting a pension when you become ill or acquire a disability, your income arrangements do not change; you continue to receive your pension and other entitlements.


If you are employed, you may continue to be paid by your employer but this depends on your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay employees who are unable to work because of illness but some contracts of employment include provision for payment while ill. This applies regardless of age. Read more about sick leave and sick pay.

Aged Under 66

If you become ill and unable to work before the age of 66, you may be eligible for Illness Benefit. Your GP will have an application form.

Illness Benefit is based on PRSI contributions. If you do not qualify because you do not have enough PRSI contributions or because you are self-employed, you may be eligible for a weekly Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

If your illness or disability arises from a work-related accident or illness, you may qualify for Occupational Injuries Benefit.

Long-term illness and disability

If you have a long-term illness or disability and you cannot continue to work, you may be able to claim your occupational or personal pension scheme, if you have one, and you may qualify for Illness Benefit. If you remain unable to work for a year or more, you may qualify for Invalidity Pension. If you do not qualify for Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension, you may apply for the means-tested Disability Allowance.

If you qualify for Invalidity Pension or Disability Allowance, you may also qualify for Free Travel and the Household Benefits Package. If you have problems paying your rent, you may be able to get Rent Supplement or Housing Assistance Payment.

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme may also provide help with various costs such as heating, exceptional needs and urgent needs.

Housing options

There are a number of housing grants available for older people and people with disabilities. If your home needs to be adapted for you to continue to live there, you may qualify for the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability. The adaptations could include adding on an extra room, making the house wheelchair accessible or putting in a ground-floor bathroom and toilet. The Housing Aid for Older Persons Scheme aims to improve the living conditions of older people by carrying out minor repairs to the main areas of their homes. The Mobility Aids Grant Scheme provides grants for works designed to address mobility problems in the home. Apply to your local authority.

If your own home is unsuitable you may be able to get a specially adapted local authority house for older people and people with disabilities, or an adapted house provided by a voluntary housing organisation. The availability of such houses, and eligibility for them, varies around the country.

Care at home

If you are in need of care, the Health Service Executive (HSE) may provide it or help you to pay for it. Your carer may also be able to get a payment from the Department of Social Protection.

Help with home care

If you need support to continue to live at home, you may be able to get help from the Community Care Services section of the HSE.

The Home Support Service helps older people to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible. This service was previously known as the Home Care Package Scheme.

Public health nurses provide nursing care to older people who live at home.

You may qualify for tax relief on the costs of employing a carer for a family member, either directly or through an agency.

Carer's Allowance

This is a means-tested payment to people who provide full-time care to a person who is incapacitated. Those who look after more than one person may be eligible for an additional 50% of the maximum rate of the payment. If you receive a Carer's Allowance, you may also qualify for Free Travel and the Household Benefits Package.

You can work or take education or training courses for up to 15 hours a week (18.5 hours from 6 January 2020).

Half-rate Carer's Allowance

If you are getting certain social welfare payments and you are providing full-time care and attention to another person, you can keep your main social welfare payment and get Half-rate Carer's Allowance.

Carer's Benefit

This is a social insurance payment for people who give up work to care for a person who is incapacitated and who needs full-time care and attention. It may be paid for up to two years for each person being cared for. If you look after more than one person, you may be eligible for an additional 50% of the maximum payment. You must be between the ages of 16 and 66 and have enough PRSI contributions to be eligible for Carer's Benefit. You may be eligible for Carer's Leave from your employment.

You can work or take education or training courses for up to 15 hours a week (18.5 hours from 6 January 2020).

Carer’s Support Grant

The Carer's Support Grant is an annual payment made to carers in June each year. The grant was previously called the Respite Care Grant. You can use the grant to pay for respite care if you wish, but you do not have to do so. You get this payment automatically if you are getting Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit, or Domiciliary Care Allowance, otherwise apply to the Department of Social Protection.

Medical services

Health services and benefits are provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Medical card/GP visit card

You may qualify for a medical card which provides health services free of charge. The medical card means test has a higher income limit for people aged over 66. There also is a different medical card means test for people over 70 that allows for a higher level of income.

If you do not qualify for a medical card because your means are too high, you are automatically assessed for a GP visit card, which has higher income limits than the medical card. If you are aged over 70, you can get a GP visit card without a means test.

If you get Carer’s Benefit or Carer’s Allowance, at full or half-rate, you are eligible for a GP visit card.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Under the Long-Term Illness Scheme drugs, medicines and some approved appliances prescribed for the treatment of certain medical conditions are available free of charge.

Drugs Payment Scheme

If you don't have a medical card, the Drugs Payment Scheme covers prescribed drugs and medicines costs that are over a set monthly amount.

Hospital charges

There are charges for public hospitals, but some people are exempt, including medical card holders. If you opt for private hospital care, you have to pay the total costs involved. Some or all of these costs may be covered by private health insurance.

Income tax relief

You can claim medical expenses against income tax paid.

There are income tax reliefs for older people and tax reliefs for people with a disability.

There is tax relief on nursing home fees and for dependent relatives.

Page edited: 11 December 2019