Alice, 77 years old, was too proud to ask for help from her only daughter when the utility company shut off her electricity. The bills had been past due for several months but when faced with the choice of paying the out-of-pocket cost for her heart medications or the lights, what was she to do? Her small savings and Social Security income were barely enough to make ends meet. An unexpected plumbing problem and a recent much-needed roof repair had drained her bank account, and it would be two weeks before her next check was deposited. Alice felt stressed and upset. Sometimes it seemed that everything was a struggle. She wasn’t even sure how she’d afford groceries – the cupboards were nearly bare.
Hardship situations are not uncommon among elderly Americans, particularly older women and minorities. While Social Security has been a safety net preventing many from slipping into poverty, a large percentage of seniors are economically vulnerable. However, a number of federal, state, and local programs exist to help older adults with the financial challenges of aging, whether it’s assistance with transportation, housing and utility costs, food, home repairs, healthcare, or tax relief.
Benefits Checkup®, a free service of the National Council on Aging, lists over 2,500 benefit programs available nationwide. Individuals can answer a few simple questions online to obtain information about benefits in their state, or look up specific categories to see what is available. For example, in Jackson, Mississippi, there are 12 programs listed for housing and utility assistance including energy assistance, weatherization assistance, the USDA Housing Repair Program, discounts on Lifeline, and other resources.
For transportation, the site lists elderly transportation services, reduced or no-fare programs, and regional transit services reduced-fare cards. Examples of health care and prescription medication programs include Medicare Savings Programs, state Medicaid programs, Home and Community-based Services (HCBS), Patient Assistance Programs, prescription medication discount cards, and more. Food and nutrition resources include information about SNAP, home-delivered meals, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). These are just a few of the dozens of programs offered in a Jackson, MS zip code for a fictional person age 77 with low income.
Many people are not aware that all of these programs exist. Ideally care managers, social workers, or knowledgeable family members can help older adults locate the programs for which they are eligible and assist them with the application process. It’s well worth the time and effort, and can result in the difference between an older adult living on the margins or having a more secure and better quality of life.
Have questions about resources? A Giving Tree care manager can help!
As an objective third party, care managers can help families facing financial hardship. If we can help, please contact Brittany Fortmayer, by phone at 228-467-5900, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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