How to Apply for Personal Care

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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 many caregiver programs.

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

If you need household care, plus partial or intermittent personal care, there is chance you may still qualify. Most programs are not designed to give 24-hour care, so if you only need partial care, make sure to tell them your situation, as there is a chance you may still be able to qualify.

What are the Rules?Β 

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

In some states, you must need assistance in SOME personal careΒ 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. However, this is not available in most areas.

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.Β 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. They may be really sad about denying you, but they have no choice.

Getting Ready

Before your interview, it may help a lot if you start making a list of the help you need. For the next week, make a list of every time you need any kind of help at all in any of these areas: eating, bathing and grooming, dressing, bathroom/toilet, walking. Even if the help is just a really small thing, you can still make a note of it.

Don’t write down things like cooking and laundry. Only list help you need directly with your body – physically getting dressed, or physically getting food in your mouth. This is the most important information you will need.

List any way anyone assists you. If no one assists you, then list any way you needed assistance but didn’t get it. For example, if you didn’t not take a bath for a week because there was no one to help you.

This list can help you a lot at the interview. It can be really hard to think/remember all your needs on the spot. If you have a list that will give you some ideas if you are having trouble remembering.

Here is some more information on personal care questions:

Say “Yes” or Say “No”

It’s a good idea to think ahead of time about the questions. That way your answers will be short, simple, and clear. If you give a long, confusing, rambling answer, there is a greater chance you will be misunderstood.

The person who is doing the interview is not going to write down a long story. They are going to check a box. They will check the box marked “yes” or the box marked “no.” Make sure you are clear: Are you answering yes? Or are you answering no? They do not need a long story about your life. They need to know what box to check. They are busy. They need to know what box to check so they can move to the next question.

Your answer will be unique to you and your situation. Here are some answers other people have given:

Question: Do you need help with bathing and hygiene?

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

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

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

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

πŸŽ€ Rick’s Answer: “No, I do not need any assistance with bathing.”

Describe Your Worst Day

Many of our readers report that their Social Workers and Medicaid workers 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?

πŸŽ€ 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.”

πŸŽ€ 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.”

πŸŽ€ 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”

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

πŸŽ€ Rick’s Answer: “No, even when my symptoms are bad I do not need any assistance in this area.”

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?

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

πŸŽ€ Jane’s Answer: “Yes, when my hands are shaking a lot, I sometimes drop the silverware and then cannot bend down to get it. I need someone to help me with the silverware.”

πŸŽ€ Judy’s Answer: “Yes, at times I cannot grasp or hold things. I need someone to help me with eating.”

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

πŸŽ€ Rick’s Answer, “No. Someone assists me with cooking, but I do not need any help with eating.”

Describe the Help You Get Now

They may ask you about help you are getting now. In some programs they will look at the help you needed or got in the past seven days. If you are not getting any help, and this is not causing problems, they may consider that you don’t need help.

Question: Does anyone help you with bathing?

If you are getting help now:

πŸŽ€ Describe theΒ  help you are getting. John’s Answer: “Yes, my mom helps me every day with getting in the bath and using my shower chair.”

If you are not getting help, and this is causing problems:

πŸŽ€ Describe what problems it is causing. Jane’s Answer: “Because I have no help, I have not showered in more than three weeks.”

If you are not getting help, and this is not causing problems:

πŸŽ€ Just be honest. Although most programs will not approve someone in this situation, there are a few areas that have programs for people with less needs. Rick’s Answer: “I don’t get any help with bathing because I am able to bath myself without problems.”

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

πŸŽ€ 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, but you are at risk

πŸŽ€ 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.”

If you are not at risk for accidents

πŸŽ€ Just be honest. In some states, you can still qualify, but in some states you may be denied.

Meet With Your Doctor

In some states, they will have a form for your doctor to fill out. We 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 homeboundΒ  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 outΒ How to Get a Doctor to Come to Your House

Meeting or talking with your doctor is important. We heard from one reader 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?

πŸŽ€ 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 as personal care questions, 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:

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

πŸŽ€ “How often do you feel sad?”

πŸŽ€ “Do you have any food allergies?”

πŸŽ€ “Do you do any social activities?”

πŸŽ€ “Do you have trouble chewing?”

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

RespiteΒ 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:

πŸŽ€ What will you do if you have a medical emergency?

πŸŽ€ What will you do if your caregiver steals from you?

πŸŽ€ How will you find a caregiver to hire?


Updated Oct 2017. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.Β 

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