When you realize your aging parent needs help, this is probably the first question you ask. Most people have very little exposure to resources for seniors until they find themselves in this situation.
Your first thought might be that there has to be an agency that offers all the resources for seniors. In the U.S. at least, this is not the case. Counties/municipalities typically have a public aging agency, but from there, things get more fragmented. There are state-funded services, VA benefits/services, Medicaid programs (different by state), and disease-specific organizations. And, that doesn’t even touch on all the private businesses that serve seniors and the many products to help.
So, the good news is there are a lot of resources for seniors. But, the bad news is that it’s complicated to navigate them all and find the resources you need. But, we’re here to help. First, we’ll dispel a few myths that might confuse you as you seek resources. Next, we’ll provide tips about the best ways to find the resources you need.
Common Misconceptions about Resources for Seniors
Medicare and supplemental insurance will cover senior care needs.
Medicare is medical insurance, similar in coverage to what you have when working. It’s not designed to cover long-term care or the many related needs seniors may have. For example, Medicare will cover some skilled home health care. However, this is for intermittent periods and requires a “skilled” need (i.e. RN or physical therapist). In other words, it doesn’t apply to the common needs for household support, someone to help with a bath or personal care, etc.
Most services are provided based on age/disability (in other words, not “means tested”).
Over the years, we’ve had many families tell us they’re shocked that there aren’t free resources available to help all seniors. They expected there to be many state-funded resources available to all seniors, without financial eligibility as a factor. Even services that aren’t means tested may give priority based on financial need, and many have long waiting lists. This was one of our founder's main motivations for starting Aging Wisely (which later became part of EasyLiving). She found a big gap for seniors who had some financial resources. They weren’t eligible for a lot of funded services, which also left them without assistance finding and coordinating help even if they could pay for it.
My friend took care of her elderly Mom. She should know what we need.
It’s great to talk to caregiving friends about their experiences. It helps to talk to someone who understands. However, when it comes to resources for seniors, these conversations can muddy the waters. This goes back to the complex puzzle that is the “eldercare system” (really, a fragmented array of systems). Your friend’s parent might have been eligible for programs your parent won’t be. Her Mom might have found she was ineligible for Veteran’s services, where now the rules have changed. So, while you might gain some ideas, these conversations typically won’t give you much direction.
So, how can I navigate the resources for seniors to get my parent what they need?
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place! We have been writing weekly posts about resources for seniors since 2010 (and way before on our Aging Wisely site). Our team tackles caregivers’ most frequently asked questions. We also provide the latest information, such as the costs of Medicare for 2019. Unlike a lot of what you might find on the internet, this blog is written by our own professionals, with extensive education and experience in senior care.
You can browse posts by category, or type what you’re looking for into the search bar. You can also contact us if you’re looking for something specific or have a topic suggestion.
Beyond the shameless plug (made with all sincerity, as we do this out of a passion to help), here are some steps to take in navigating resources for seniors to find what YOU need.
1. Get organized/prepared.
Before you start to research resources, you have to get a handle on your parent’s situation. Organizing paperwork will help, as you’re likely going to need a lot of it as you seek advice and apply for certain programs. You can start with our document locator list. And, you’ll find more tips for preparing in our Aging Wisely checklist’s “preparing ahead” section. Click Here to download it.
2. Build your basic knowledge of what’s available.
We focus on this a lot, by answering common questions and debunking some myths. You can also find quality information by going right to the source. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association’s website is the go-to resource for that disease and memory concerns. Medicare.gov is another example, with an improved website that now offers solid resources. Though online research can quickly become overwhelming, it’s useful in the early stages especially to gain an idea of the landscape. It can also be useful in looking up specific questions.
You might also want to gather some information from the local agency on aging. They typically have a helpline and many have a resource database online. The Area Agency on Aging of Pinellas-Pasco serves our area. The Eldercare Locator will get you in touch with agencies in your area.
3. Consult with a professional/get an assessment.
The best time-saving tip we can offer is to get personalized advice, from someone who can help you access the entire array of resources. An aging life care manager evaluates your situation and makes targeted recommendations, so you don’t waste time going down all the wrong paths. They know public resources, eligibility for financial assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, VA, etc. And, they know the private sector such as home care companies, care facilities and senior-friendly products. They’re knowledgeable in home safety/modifications and many services that aren’t even targeted to seniors, but can help.