8 Primary Governmental Programs for Seniors and Caregivers
If you have taken on the responsibility of providing caregiver services for your aging parent, you have taken on what might be considered a monumental task. Truly, being a caregiver for an aging parent presents a person with challenges that he or she may not have imagined. Noting the consequential nature of caregiving on behalf of an aging parent, take at least some comfort in knowing that there are resources available to support you in this effort. These include eight key governmental programs designed for seniors and, by extension, their caregivers.
Some of these programs you certainly have heard of and know something about. Other programs may be new to you as you assume the role of caregiver for your mother or father:
- Supplemental Security Income
- Administration on Aging
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Americans with Disabilities Act National Network
- National Institutes of Health
- State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs
There is more to Medicare than just Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) than you might imagine. If the person you are caring for is 65 or older and collecting Social Security retirement benefits, they likely receive Medicare Part A for free, and their Medicare Part B premiums are automatically deducted from their Social Security monthly benefits.
Part D prescription drug coverage is subsidized by Medicare through payments to private insurance companies. This, in turn, funds part of the cost of prescription drugs.
Seniors with low income as well as limited assets may qualify for a Medicare Savings Program. Depending on the program for which they are eligible, the state may pay part of the premiums as well as coinsurance, deductibles, and copayments.
Another program called Extra Help. This program is also available to minimize costs associated with Part D prescription drug plans.
Supplemental Security Income
In certain circumstances, if an individual earned Security benefits through lower-paying jobs and these benefits are their only source of income, that person may qualify for a larger monthly benefit from the Social Security Supplemental Income program or SSI. SSI is a federal program. SSI provides seniors and blind or disabled individuals with monthly payments to supplement their income.
SSI is a needs-based program. As a result, applicants must meet certain income and asset requirements to qualify for the program. Eligibility for SSI is usually used as an indicator that an individual also qualifies for other needs-based programs and benefits. These might include Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.
Administration on Aging
The federal Administration on Aging administers a number of national programs and services for elders. These include:
- Free health insurance counseling
- Legal assistance
- Elder abuse prevention
- Help with long-term care planning
The Administration on Aging also oversees a network of community-based organizations. These are called:
- Area Agencies on Aging
- Aging and Disability Resource Centers
These local organizations offer in-person assistance in accessing various programs and services. Area Agencies on Aging are staffed by professionals and volunteers who are knowledgeable about resources for seniors and their caregivers, including family members.
Department of Veterans Affairs
A military veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran may be entitled to several different benefits available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For example, the VA offers:
- Health care services
- Long-term care services
- Disability compensation
- Burial benefits
- Other benefits
Although the application and approval processes can be lengthy, the best place to start is locating a veteran’s discharge papers (also known as DD Form 214). This form is used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine the nature of a veteran’s discharge or separation from active duty in the armed forces. This is one of the fundamental eligibility requirements for most VA benefits.
Americans With Disabilities Act National Network
If your senior parent or other loved one has a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA might come into play The ADA is described as a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in all aspects of public life, such as employment, state and federal government programs, transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications, and commercial facilities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created the ADA National Network in order to provide information, briefings, and free publications on ADA-related issues and regulations.
National Institutes of Health
Oftentimes, an older American will have multiple medical conditions. An older person is apt to take several prescription and over-the-counter medications. As a caregiver, it is important to be knowledgeable about a parent or other loved one’s health status and medication regimen.
The National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health and hosts Medline Plus. Medline Plus is a comprehensive online database of information on health conditions, medical tests, and every drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration or FDA.
In addition to learning more about age-related conditions and healthy living, consumers can use this database to search for information on various medications. This includes information on a drug’s active ingredients, uses, dosing recommendations, special precautions, side effects, and interactions. MedlinePlus also features detailed information on herbal remedies and dietary supplements.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to low-income Americans. Adults may qualify for Medicaid if they are disabled or have reached the age of 65 or older. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid covers various types of long-term care as well as home- and community-based care services. In order to qualify, applicants must meet stringent financial requirements. Each state administers its own Medicaid program according to federal requirements. As a result, precise eligibility requirements differ from one state to another.
More information on the Medicaid program for seniors can be found at Medicaid.gov. For more general information on the program, visit Medicaid.gov.
State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs
All states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, operate an ombudsman program with the goal of helping long-term care residents and their families understand their legal rights. Each program is headed by a full-time long-term care ombudsman who directs a team of staff and volunteers. These individuals visit residents in long-term care settings, investigate and resolve complaints, advocate for quality care, and educate consumers and their families about their rights.
How to Access These Programs
There are a number of resources through which you can access information about these various programs. These include:
This site is operated by the U.S. government.
This site is operated by the National Council on Aging.