Page Reviewed / Updated – November 16, 2010

Consumer directed care means the consumer chooses their own care providers instead of a state agency dictating what care is required, by whom, and when that care is delivered.

Definition: Consumer Directed Care

In the context of long-term care, consumer directed care refers to a system in which the individual in need of care, or their family and legal guardians, determine what care services and supplies are necessary. The individual, or their family, select, retain, and manage their care providers, and to an extent, they manage payment to their providers, usually within an agreed upon, pre-determined budget. In some states, Financial Management Services assist consumer directed participants with their role as the employer, such as processing payments and withholding taxes.

Consumer directed care means the consumer chooses their own care providers rather than a state agency dictating what care is required, by whom, and when that care is delivered. Generally speaking, by putting the consumer in charge of their own care, the consumer receives higher quality care, which is customized for their needs, and enjoys greater flexibility, control, and satisfaction from the care they receive. Theoretically, consumer directed care also generates cost savings for each of the states, as they are relieved of providing some care management services.

One of the most popular aspects of consumer direction, and the reason for which many families seek out these programs, is because family members can be paid for the care they provide.  Learn more.

Other Names for Consumer Direction

There is no single, national consumer directed care program. Instead this is a concept that is played out in many different programs referred to by different names and acronyms. Consequently, there is often confusion around consumer directed care. One may also hear it referred to as:

  • CDC
  • Consumer Directed Services
  • Participant Directed Care
  • Participant Direction
  • Self-Directed Care
  • Consumer Directed Medicaid Waivers
  • Veterans’ Directed Care
  • Self-Administered Services

Adding further confusion is the fact that many states have their own names for their specific programs. For example, in Pennsylvania and D.C. the programs are called Services My Way, in Texas, CDS or DADS, and in New York, CDPAS. 


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Types of Consumer Directed Care

Consumer directed care programs are now available in nearly every state.

Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program is one popular program rolling out across the states in which the family caregiver can be paid for the personal care they provide to their loved ones.

Veterans Directed-HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) Program, as the name implies, is a program that allows veterans to direct their own care services. While it does not provide them with cash directly, it does put them in charge of a care budget and allows them to authorize payments to care providers.

State Medicaid HCBS Waivers are the most common programs with consumer direction.  Under some waivers, consumer direction is automatic and in others, it is considered an add-on and enrollment may be limited.  The amount of participant control varies from waiver to waiver and state to state.  On this website, we maintain a complete list of Medicaid waivers that one can review to find programs for which they are eligible and a list of Medicaid waivers with consumer direction.

So popular is this concept that some states have even begun to allow for self-direction of care services in their non-Medicaid elder care assistance programs.  A list is here.