MI Choice offers options for independence

By Regina Salmi

Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan

According to a 2015 report on care-giving by the AARP, 16.6 percent of adults act as an unpaid caregiver of another adult age 50 or over. This may be a spouse caring for their husband/wife, a family caring for their mother/father, or even a friend caring for another who doesn’t have family available. As our aging population continues to grow, so will the number of people who find themselves in position of caring for a loved one.

Often when we begin having discussions about those we are caring for, with them or other family members, we often assume the decisions are, “Who is mom going to live with?” or “Should we start looking at nursing homes for dad?”

A person caring for their spouse may be reluctant to ask for help, believing it means they are incapable of providing for their loved one, and fear losing them as a result. Many people are unaware there are options available for older adults that may not require a move or loss of independence at all.

The MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program is one of these options. Created in 1992, MI Choice is an income-eligible program through the state of Michigan, providing in-home services to older adults in order to help them remain in their own homes rather than a nursing home or to move in with a relative. With assistance, many older adults are able to live independently for the remainder of their lives.

Individuals in the MI Choice program can receive help with all sorts of daily living tasks, like in-home cleaning services, bathing and dressing, nursing, and meal delivery. Individuals may qualify for services like home modifications, personal emergency response systems, and transportation. For those families who already made the choice to have a loved one move in with them, these services are available to help care for a loved one in your home, as well as respite services for those times when family caregivers need a break. In addition, MI Choice Medicaid Waiver saves Michigan taxpayers money. Providing in-home services costs far less than a move into a nursing home.

Applying for the MI Choice program begins with a phone call to Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, which administers the program. AAAWM is a non-profit organization that connects adults to services that promote and preserve their dignity, independence and well-being. AAAWM serves Mecosta, Osceola, Lake, Newaygo, Montcalm, Allegan, Ionia, Kent and Mason counties.

Applicants to MI Choice are pre-screened for income eligibility, so it is important to have financial information on hand. Once an applicant’s income is verified, a care management team, comprised of a social worker and an R.N., is sent to the home to do an assessment. This assessment determines what supports are necessary to help an older adult remain at home.

Throughout this process, the individual and anyone else they choose to have involved has a say in what services they want and how they want them delivered. There are supports we may be qualified to have, but we do not want them, or we want less of them. The care management team will work to ensure you have a say in decisions made about your care every step of the way.

If you are interested in learning more about the services that may be available to you or your loved ones or you would like to begin the application process, contact Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at (888) 456-5664 or email aaainfo@aaawm.org. Even if the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program isn’t for you, there are a number of other services available through Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan and their partners for older adults, people with disabilities, and their caregivers. For more information, visit the website: aaawm.org.