When parents get older and need help, it can be difficult for family members to provide that assistance.
But relief for caregivers is available, including a program that allows people to be paid and get health insurance while they are taking care of parents or family members on Medicaid.
At a free seminar at the Sunnyside library yesterday, Jeannie Johnson provided a step-by-step approach to getting full benefits, including an overview of the rules in place that can make navigating the system confusing.
“I went to get the forms and brochures for this seminar and was told they don’t have them,” Johnson said. “Oh, yes they did. Sometimes the people who are there to help you don’t know about all the programs available.”
Johnson said there are basically six options when a person needs care. The person can get an individual provider, bring in an in-home care agency, go to an adult family home, go to a boarding home, enter assisted living or go to a nursing home or rehab center.
After her mother’s death, Johnson operated four adult family homes, trying to provide the best possible service to her 24 residents.
“But when I asked them what they wanted most, all of them wanted to go home,” she said.
The two options that allow a person to stay in their own home are getting an individual provider and hiring an in-home care agency. For people who are already living with family members, having a member of the family become an individual provider can make the most sense.
“The only restriction is that spouses cannot become individual providers,” Johnson said.
The first step in the process is to make sure the family member who will be cared for is on Medicaid. Johnson provided step-by-step instructions for going to the Washington state website and signing up for Medicaid.
“Don’t give up,” she said. “You’ll get lots of phone calls. You might even be denied. Just submit the application again.”
Once a person is on Medicaid, a caseworker will determine how many hours an individual provider can be paid. Johnson said a typical amount is 80-100 hours a month.
The family member then submits an application to become an individual provider. Again, Johnson gave step-by-step instructions to find the application online.
An orientation course, usually provided via DVD, is then required. In addition, individual providers are required to join Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775NW, which will not only provide inexpensive health insurance, but also pays for the required training courses.
At this point, the individual provider will already be in the system and will be getting paid. Providers will also be paid to complete the training, which needs to be finished within 120 days of starting employment.
After completing training, an individual provider needs to take an exam to become a certified home care aide. The test needs to be scheduled in advance, and certification must be obtained within 150 days of starting work as a provider.
Asked if it would be easier to take the steps to be classified as an adult family home, Johnson listed the many fees and regulations that are required.
“It’s actually much easier to become an individual provider,” she said.
She emphasized not giving up. Although navigating the system is difficult, the help available can be a relief to caregivers who need help.
“It’s worth it to keep your family at home,” Johnson said.
More information about the individual provider program can be found online at http://www.adsa.dshs.wa.gov/caregiving/inHomeCaregiver.htm. The brochure on becoming an individual provider is available as a PDF at http://www.adsa.dshs.wa.gov/Library/publications/brochurestext.htm#ip or by calling (360) 570-555 and requesting the “Employment Reference Guide for Individual Providers”.