How to Apply for Personal Care

Artwork: Robin Mead

If you are applying for home care through the state, you may be asked a bunch of personal care questions. Your answers are VERY important.

Many people feel shy or embarrassed about answering these questions and sometimes people downplay their needs.

Some people also do not answer these questions accurately because they have not taken the time to really think through every question and every time they need help in anyway.

When applying for home care, it is very important to be honest and talk about all the help you need.

What is Personal Care?

Household care and personal care are two different things.

Household care is laundry, shopping, cooking, errands, and cleaning.

Personal care is bathing, dressing, eating, and toilet. Sometimes it is also mobility.

If you only need household care, you may be denied from most caregiver programs.

If you need both household care and personal care, you may be eligible for most caregiver programs.

What are the Rules?ย 

In some states you must need assistance in EVERY personal care area in order to be eligible.

In some states, you must need assistance in SOME personal careย areas in order to be eligible.

In a few states, you can get approved for some kind of help even if you do not need personal care.

If you do not know what is true in your state call and ask. “Can you please tell me what the criteria is for someone to get approved for this program?”

Is It Hard to Apply For?

Applying for home care is much faster and simpler than applying for disability. It usually involves one interview (over the phone or in your home – you do not need to leave your house) plus one form for your doctor to fill out. In some programs there is a waiting list and in some programs you can begin relatively quickly (within a few months).

Many people report that applying for home care is a lot easier than applying for disability, because the Social Workers in these programs are supportive and believe that your symptoms are real.

When you tell them you are sick, they believe you! For anyone who has applied for disability, this is a refreshing experience.ย However, even if they are really nice to you and really like you, they still have to follow the rules.

According to the rules, if you do not need any personal care, you will automatically disqualified for many home care programs. It does not matter how sick you are or how poor you are or how bad your problems are. It does not matter if you are literally going to starve to death because you have no way to get groceries.

And it doesn’t matter how nice the caseworkers are. Even if they like you a lot and they are really nice and they really want to help you, they will still deny you, because those are the rules and they will lose their job if they don’t follow them.

Here is some more information on answering personal care questions:

Say “Yes” or Say “No”

If the answer is yes, say yes. If the answer is no, say no. Social workers and doctors are busy. They have a lot of paperwork to fill out. They do not want you to tell them your life story. They do not want a long answer. They do not want a vague answer. They want you to tell them which box to check on the form. You should always say what is honest and true for you. Here are some sample answers other people have given:

Question: Do you need help with bathing and hygiene?

๐ŸŽ€ ย John’s Answer: “Yes. I have had several falls and need someone to assist me in and out of the tub.”

๐ŸŽ€ Jane’s Answer: “Yes. I am sometimes bedridden and need someone to bring me my toothbrush and assist me with brushing my teeth.”

๐ŸŽ€ Judy’s Answer: “Yes I need someone to wash my hair when I am too weak to do it myself.”

๐ŸŽ€ Bob’s Answer: โ€œYes. I need help every time. I am not able to bath without help.”

Describe Your Worst Day

When I have spoken with Social Workers and Medicaid workers they have recommended that it is best to answer questions by describing what is like for you when your symptoms are bad. When in doubt: Try starting your answers with the these words “Yes. When my symptoms are very severe…..”

You should always say what is honest and true for you. Here are some sample answers other people have given:

Question: Do you need help with dressing?

๐ŸŽ€ John’s Answer: “Yes. When I have severe back pain, I cannot bend over. I need someone to assist me with shoes and sometimes with pants.”

๐ŸŽ€ Jane’s Answer: “Yes. When I am having severe weakness, I have trouble lifting my arms. If I need to leave the house to see the doctor, I need someone to help me with sweaters and coats.”

๐ŸŽ€ Judy’s Answer: “Yes. When I am having side effects from medications, my hands shake a lot. I need someone to help me with buttons and zippers and shoes”

๐ŸŽ€ Bob’s: “Yes. I am unable to get dressed at all without help.”

Understand the Question

If they ask you about bathing, eating, dressing or toilet, they are asking you about physical care to your body. They are not asking about cooking, shopping and cleaning. They are asking about personal care to your person. You should always say what is honest and true for you. Here are some sample answers other people have given:

Question: Do you need help eating?

๐ŸŽ€ John’s Answer: “Yes, when I am very weak, I cannot sit up and eat. I need someone to hold up the cup and straw for me.”

๐ŸŽ€ Jane’s Answer: “Yes, when I am not well, I sometimes drop the silverware and then cannot bend down to get it. I need someone to help me with the silverware.”

๐ŸŽ€ Judy’s Answer: “At times I cannot grasp or hold things. I need someone to help me with eating.”

๐ŸŽ€ Bob’s Answer: “Yes. I need someone to cut the food and feed it to me.”

Describe the Help You Get Now

They may ask you about help you are getting now. Some people are afraid to describe the help they are already getting. It will depend on the program, but in some programs they will look at the help you needed or got in the past seven days. If you are not getting help now, then let them know any problems this is causing. You should always say what is honest and true for you. Here are some sample answers other people have given:

Question: Does anyone help you with bathing?

๐ŸŽ€ John’s Answer: “Yes, my mom helps me every day.”

๐ŸŽ€ Jane’s Answer: “Because I have no help, I have not showered in more than three weeks.”

Bathroom Accidents

They may ask you if you have toilet “accidents” (Times when you did not make it to the bathroom in time).

If you have had accidents

๐ŸŽ€ Be honest. This is HARD, but it is worth it. It is worth being embarrassed for a few minutes, if it means that you will get help you need every day!

If you have not had accidents

๐ŸŽ€ Try answering this question by estimating how often you would have accidents if you had no assistance. For example, John answered by saying: “If I had no help or assistance, I would have accidents about once a week. Because my mom is helping me I am not having accidents now.”

Meet With Your Doctor

They will probably have a form for your doctor to fill out. I cannot stress this enough: You need to talk to your doctor about this form. Your doctor is not a mind-reader. She probably is not going to remember all your personal care needs, unless you are sitting right there with her when she fills out the form. She may also need to examine you so she can determine her medical opinion about your care needs.

If you are homeboundย  or bedridden, and unable to get to a doctor, you can ask the person running the program if there is any way they can arrange for a doctor or nurse to visit your home to screen you. Also check outย How to Get a Doctor to Come to Your House

Meeting or talking with your doctor is important. I know one person who was on a waiting list for an entire year for home care. When she got to the top of the list, the program sent a form to her doctor. The doctor was very busy and worked at a free clinic. She did not remember exactly what help the patient needed. The doctor checked some of the wrong boxes on the form, and the entire application was denied.

Question: What is Your Doctor’s Contact Information?

๐ŸŽ€ Jane’s Answer: “I would like to get a copy of the form so I can review it with my doctor. How can I get a copy I can bring to my doctor?”

Other Questions

After the personal care questions, they may ask you a long list of other questions. Many of these questions may seem completely useless or irrelevant to you. It is still good if you can answer accurately.

You do not have to say “yes” every time or get everything perfect, just be honest and do the best you can with it. These questions are not as important, but if the questions show you have a lot of problems, you may some extra points.

Bottom line: The more needy, lonely and pathetic you are, the more points you get! Sample questions:

๐ŸŽ€ “How often do you talk to your family?”

๐ŸŽ€ “How often do you feel sad?”

๐ŸŽ€ “Do you have any food allergies?”

๐ŸŽ€ “Do you do any social activities?”

๐ŸŽ€ “Do you have trouble chewing?”

๐ŸŽ€ “How many medications and supplements do you take?”

Respiteย Questions

They may ask you if you have someone you live with who takes care of you and is not paid. For example, a family member. This is a bit of a trick question.

Logically, it seems like if you already have a live-in caregiver you would get less hours, but this is not how it works in some states. Some states offer extra “respite” hours to give your caregiver a break. So, if you have a caregiver, you get more hours to hire a caregiver! Illogical, yet true.

Caregiver Questions

If you are applying for a Medicaid waiver program, you have two options:

  1. You can ask them to send you a caregiver from an agency
  2. You can hire your own caregiver (friend, family member, neighbor, etc)

If you choose to hire your own caregiver, you have two options:

  1. You can handle the paperwork and timesheets yourself. This will take some time and energy, as it can sometimes be confusing to figure out.
  2. You can find someone else you know to volunteer to do this for you. This person will become your official representative that can sign paperwork and timesheets for you. This person CANNOT be paid as your caregiver.

If you choose to handle the paperwork yourself, you may be asked some questions to make sure you are able to do this. There is no wrong or right way to answer these questions, just use your common sense. Sample questions:

๐ŸŽ€ What will you do if you have a medical emergency?

๐ŸŽ€ What will you do if your caregiver steals from you?

๐ŸŽ€ How will you find a caregiver to hire?


Updated May 2017

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