Ask Mike - Want to become a personal assistant for my mother-in-law

Hello Mike

I'm interested in becoming a personal assistant for my mother-in-law who has a mental disability. She receives Social Security for this disability and needs help with everyday living. I help her by cooking, cleaning, giving her medication, taking her to appointments, etc. I live in Chicago and have contacted The Department of Health and Human Services, The Social Security Administration, Medicaid, and a number of other agencies who can't seem to help me and keep giving me the run around. Do you have any advice or suggestions on what I steps I should take to become her paid personal assistant?


Wants to be PA

Dear Wants to be PA,

Thanks for writing. You want to know how to become a paid personal assistant for your mother-in-law who has a mental disability. You currently provide assistance with things like cooking, cleaning and medication administration, but would like to be paid.

Your mother-in-law will need to become eligible for services or a program that will provide the funding to pay your wages. Different programs will have different eligibility requirements for beneficiaries. You will need to meet any qualifications that exist for being a paid personal assistant.. Just as there is variation in the eligibility requirements of different programs for beneficiaries, the qualifications for being a direct service worker can vary from program to program, too. Programs and services in Illinois, as in most states, are provided by Medicaid 1915(c) Home and Community-based Services (HCBS) Waivers. They are called "Waivers" because some of the usual federal Medicaid rules governing service provision are allowed to be "waived", or ignored, by these programs.

The first step is to find the program that meets your mother-in-law's needs and for which she appears to be eligible. Illinois has seven different HCBS programs and at least one state funded program that appears to have more generous financial eligibility rules. If you go to the page "Medicaid 1915(c) HCBS Waivers - Contact Info and Descriptions" for Illinois, you will see listed the seven different programs and their respective contact information. Also note the heading, "State Program Data" found on the left hand side of this page. Click on "State only Funded HCBS in Illinois" and you will see a program called "Community Care Program" with some brief descriptive information. Again, it appears that this program has more generous financial eligibility criteria than the Waivers; so if your mother-in-law has too much income to qualify for a Waiver, she can try this option.

Remember that when you contact a program to inquire about services and eligibility for your mother-in-law, you will need to make sure and ask about any requirements for workers and any restrictions against family members being paid providers. Once you find a program that seems to fit, go ahead and have your mother-in-law apply for services. Ask for an application.

A final cautionary note is about the current budgetary crisis going on in the country and in Illinois, specifically. Unfortunately, even if your mother-in-law becomes eligible for a program that will pay you for assisting her, Illinois is suffering an unprecedented budget crisis. Because of this, programs are being cut and/or wait listed and/or frozen. This may mean that there could likely be a lengthy delay in actually receiving paid services and the scope and amount services available may be less robust than in the past.

Good luck.

Mike Oxford

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