When your aging parent, or elderly loved one, is having difficulty paying their bills, or needs medical care they can’t afford, you probably want to pitch in and help. Doing so with your own pocketbook will mean less money available to pay your bills and save for your own retirement. You attempting to solve your loved one’s money issues with your own money could create economic stress for you and your children later in your own life. How wonderful it would be if you could win the lottery! Odds are that won’t happen. So, here are some tips from our experienced elder law attorney on how to help your aging parents get financial benefits.
The National Council on Aging
The National Council on Aging created a tool that will search through more than 2,000 federal, state, and private benefits programs across the United States. The search tool can connect your older loved one with assistance that can help pay for housing, medication, food, medical services, utilities, transportation and other necessities. The National Council on Aging also has prepared a booklet that will help you identify the different types of financial and other aid that can be obtained through government programs as well as some private programs. It’s called the Guide to Benefits for Seniors.
To use the National Council on Aging’s search tool, you can call 888-268-6706 to find a Benefits Enrollment Center in your area. An agency employee will help you at no charge to locate the benefits for which your parent or loved one is eligible. After you fill out a questionnaire, you will receive a detailed report listing all those programs that might help your loved one, and telling you how to apply. You can get application forms and assistance at your local Benefits Enrollment Center.
If you prefer, you can do the search yourself online at BenefitsCheckUp.org. This search tool is free and confidential. Once you create the list of programs for which your parent or elderly love one qualifies, you can apply for benefits. Many of the forms are available at the enrollment centers or available online. Some programs require you to contact that entity directly to apply.
How the Benefits Locator Works
The online questionnaire will ask for information like your parent’s or elderly loved one’s:
- Date of birth
- ZIP code
- Prescription drugs
- Veteran status
Your parent must be age 55 or older to use the locator tool. Allow about 15 minutes to complete the online intake form.
Types of Programs for Seniors
There are many government benefits for older Americans, but do not overlook private groups that assist people in need. Some people do not apply for Social Security retirement benefits, because they did not work for enough years to qualify for full retirement benefits.
Your loved one might qualify through a spouse’s work record or be eligible for partial benefits, based on his own limited work history. A few hundred dollars more a month can make enough of a difference that your parent does not need financial help from you.
Depending on several factors including income, age and geographic area, your older parent or loved one can qualify for:
- Housing through HUD
- Home repairs or weatherization
- Reduced real estate taxes
- Financial management and budget counseling
- Groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and many regional and local food pantries, meal delivery programs for low-income or elderly people.
- Prescription drugs through Part D Medicare coverage, Medicaid, the federal Low-Income Subsidy (also called Extra Help), drug manufacturers, and charitable groups.
- Utility bill help, including discounts on heating and cooling bills
- Monthly cash benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for very low-income seniors with few assets.
These are just some examples of the multitude of benefits programs available for seniors.
Other Organizations Maintaining Programs to Help Seniors
Many other organizations either provide direct benefits for seniors and the elderly, or provide programs that assist seniors with finding appropriate programs that can help them find other benefit programs. Some (and certainly not all) of these organizations include:
State Government Programs for Seniors
Every state makes its own regulations, so your state might vary from the general law of this article. Be sure to talk to an elder law attorney in your area to learn about what programs might be available for your parents’ or loved ones’ specific needs.
In Florida, the following agencies can provide assistance for elder seniors, especially in the areas of Medicaid planning, long term care planning, and support for incapacitated seniors:
Florida Department of Elder Affairs
If you need the help of an experienced Florida elder law attorney, you can call us for help. Our toll free number is 866-510-9099. We can help you with qualifying for Medicaid to help pay for long term care, we can help you with long term care planning, estate planning, wills and trusts, advanced directives like a living will, a durable power of attorney, a designation of health care surrogate, a designation of agent to dispose of remains, and other documents to help ensure your desires are followed during any period of incapacity and at your passing.