Essential Resources for Senior Citizens and Their Caregivers

(Eldercare Directory) Every state has an Aging Services Division dedicated to providing frail seniors with home and community-based services, so that they can continue living in their own homes, instead of having to enter a nursing home.

A wide range of state assistance programs are generally available to eligible seniors, including home health aides and skilled nursing care, home-delivered meals, help with household chores, transportation to shopping and medical appointments, as well as counseling, advocacy and legal aid.

In addition to these programs that help senior citizens directly, many states also offer caregiver assistance programs that provide family caregivers with information, counseling, and respite services.

Long Term Care Ombudsman

The long-term care ombudsman is a statewide office that was created under the authority of the Older Americans Act. The office of the ombudsman has the responsibility and authority to investigate and resolve complaints from seniors and their family members regarding the quality of care in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, board and care homes, and specialty care facilities, such as dementia day care programs.

Agents from the ombudsman’s office work as advocates for elderly residents, in response to individual complaints, to ensure that residents receive quality care, that their rights are respected, and that they are treated fairly by the long-term care facility, its providers, and staff.

The ombudsman’s office is also available to assist seniors and their family members in their dealings with other government agencies, to ensure that elderly patients and residents receive all of the medical, rehabilitation, legal, financial, and social services that they are entitled to by law.

Food and Nutrition Programs

Congregate and Home Delivered Meals

Eligible seniors can receive free nutritious meals, which are professionally prepared and served daily in congregate settings, such as senior and community centers. Most communities also have programs, such as Meals on Wheels, that offer seniors the option to have meals delivered to them every day in their own home.

Nutrition Counseling

Many local agencies for the aging offer seniors and caregivers nutrition counseling services, to help them make healthy meal choices, and can give advice and recommendations for dealing with the nutritional aspects of various illnesses.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal program that provides monthly financial assistance to eligible individuals, including the elderly and disabled, who have low income and limited assets and need help paying for food. Although this is a federal program, it is administered at the state level, so you should contact your state’s Agency on Aging to apply for help through this program.

»Read more details about the SNAP program, including income and asset limits, in our article on Federal Programs for Seniors.

Caregiver Assistance Services

The overwhelming majority of in-home care services for the elderly is provided by unpaid family caregivers who give freely of themselves and make it possible for their elderly loved ones to live at home in a family setting for as long as possible.

Family caregivers of the elderly can now get help and support through several programs designed specifically to address their needs.

Caregiver Respite

Most states have some type of caregiver respite program which provides family caregivers with temporary relief from their care giving responsibilities. Through the respite program, caregivers can arrange to have a substitute caregiver come in to their home and provide care to their elderly family member, or the elderly care recipient could be temporarily cared for in an alternative residential care setting, such as a nearby adult care home.

Caregiver Counseling

Caregiver counseling services offered through the state and local agencies on aging provide caregivers with information on how to access government program and services for the elderly, assist the elderly and their caregivers with applying for benefits, and offer guidance and information to enable seniors and their caregivers to make informed decisions about their elder care options.

Medicaid Waiver

Through the Medicaid Waiver program, eligible seniors who require a level of care that would ordinarily require admission into a nursing home can receive in-home care services paid for by Medicaid. The goal of the program is to prevent or delay nursing home admission, and provide frail seniors with the necessary medical and support services to enable them to continue living at home with their families safely and comfortably, for as long as possible.

Adult Protective Services and Elder Abuse Prevention

The division of adult protective services is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults, including the frail or disabled elderly and adults with emotional or mental disabilities as a result of an illness or injury. Suspected cases of neglect or abuse of a vulnerable adult, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse or exploitation, whether in a domestic or institutional setting, should be reported to the state’s division of adult protective services.

Legal Aid

The legal aid program for seniors is administered through state or local agencies on aging. Through the program, qualified attorneys answer seniors’ legal questions, provide legal advice and advocacy, prepare and review legal documents, and represent seniors in legal proceedings.

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)

Seniors can contact their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to speak with trained insurance counselors who can provide accurate and objective information and guidance regarding the public and private health insurance options available for the elderly in their state, including Medicare and Medicaid benefits, Medicare Advantage and Supplement Plans, and also state-sponsored prescription assistance programs for the elderly.

»Learn more about Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans.

Senior Companion and Friendly Visitor Programs

These programs provide seniors with a chance for social interaction with a volunteer, usually another senior citizen, who comes to visit the senior and engage in conversation, or perhaps to read to a visually impaired senior. Volunteers may also take seniors out for recreational activities or help with some light chores around the home. These volunteers can play an important role to help prevent social isolation, and can also watch for signs that the senior is developing a new or worsening health condition that requires medical care.

Chore and Homemaker Assistance

Seniors can apply through their local agency on aging to receive help with their routine household chores, such as shopping, doing laundry, general house cleaning, preparing meals, and yard work such as mowing grass, raking leaves, pulling weeds, and clearing snow.

Transportation Service

In most communities, seniors can call their local office for the aging to arrange for transportation to and from medical appointments, shopping centers, and other locations as required to manage their personal affairs. Seniors who use a wheelchair or have other mobility impairments should call well in advance of their scheduled appointment, to ensure the availability of handicapped-accessible transportation.

Self-Directed Care Options

An increasing number of states are offering seniors the ability to participate in self-directed care programs, which offer seniors a fixed monthly cash benefit that they can use as they see fit, to purchase personal care items for their comfort or convenience, or to pay for services from home and community-based care providers that they choose.

When properly implemented, these programs give seniors greater control over their own care and finances, thus promoting independence and self-determination.

Senior Employment

Seniors who wish to supplement their retirement income and provide useful services to their community may be able to participate in state sponsored senior employment programs. These programs are primarily directed at low-income seniors and offer job training, employment counseling, and job placement services, with many seniors placed in non-subsidized positions working for community service agencies.

Prescription Assistance Program

Most states have some form of prescription assistance program to help low income elderly and disabled residents pay for their prescription medications. The details of these programs vary from one state to another, but in most cases they provide comprehensive prescription drug coverage for seniors without other prescription insurance coverage, and also supplement the coverage and reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for eligible seniors who have coverage through a Medicare Drug Plan.

Senior Housing Assistance

A variety of government housing assistance programs are available to help seniors with their housing needs. The majority of these programs are sponsored by the federal government, however they are administered through the state and local agencies on aging.

Senior Housing Apartments

Many communities use federal funds to maintain a stock of public housing apartments for low income senior citizens and persons with disabilities. The demand for these senior apartments is very great, and there is usually a waiting list for available apartments. You should contact your state Agency on Aging, listed below, for information about the eligibility requirements and instructions on how to apply for a senior apartment in your area.

Section 8 Housing

Section 8 housing is a federal program administered by the states, which provides a rent subsidy to eligible seniors to allow them to rent a home or apartment from a private homeowner.

»Read more about the Section 8 Program in our article on Federal Programs for Seniors.

Home Repair and Modification Assistance

Various types of financial aid, ranging from grants that do not have to be repaid, to low interest loans, are available to eligible seniors who need help paying for necessary home repairs, or who need to make modifications to their home in order to make it handicapped-accessible.

Demand for home repair and modification grants is high, and funds are very limited, so you should apply as soon as possible when the yearly application period opens in your area.

Heating and Energy Assistance

The federal government makes funds available to the states to help low income seniors pay for a portion of their winter heating and summer cooling costs. Although this is a federal program, it is supervised at the state level, and usually administered at the county or local level. The income limit for receiving energy assistance varies from state to state, based on state median income and the federal poverty level, and also depends upon your family size.

Contact your state agency on aging listed below for information about how to apply for this program.

Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

The Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a special program, available in just 28 states, which offers integrated Medicare and Medicaid benefits and provides medical, social, and long-term care services to the frail elderly, in order to improve their quality of life and ensure that they have the professional support and care that they need, in order to remain in the community and in their homes for as long as possible.

Burial Assistance

Many states offer a small amount of financial assistance to help families pay for the funeral, cremation, and/or burial costs of deceased seniors who were receiving certain low-income benefits, such as SSI or Medicaid, at the time of their death, and whose estate is insufficient to pay for their final expenses. If the deceased has living relatives who were legally responsible for their support while they were alive, then the legally responsible relatives must also lack sufficient resources in order to qualify for burial assistance.

State Agencies for the Aging

The following table provides links to every state’s Aging Services Division, where you can find complete details about your state’s aging assistance programs, including eligibility requirements and application procedures.


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