Getting Elders What They Need

Getting Elders What They Need

Five elder-care resources to help you care for your family member

When caring for an aging loved one, putting into place the many pieces of the care puzzle can be a daunting task. There is a myriad of social service and assistance programs, but each comes with its own eligibility requirements, regulations, applications, and wait times. Navigating the system can quickly become overwhelming, and many people eventually give up on pursuing much-needed services.

One of the goals of ESME’s elder care resource section is to help families understand and access some of the most beneficial programs for elders.

To begin, these five programs offer tremendous services, and taking advantage of them may be easier than you think.

1. Meals on Wheels America

Since 1954, the not-for-profit organization Meals on Wheels America has been serving older adults by providing home-delivered or community-based hot meals and a friendly visit with a watchful eye.

One common misperception about Meals on Wheels is that the program serves only the very poor. In fact, there is no income maximum to qualify for the program. Rather than focus on financial need, Meals on Wheels brings food to those “whose diminished mobility makes it hard to shop for food, prepare meals, or socialize with others.”

Meals on Wheels is most commonly known for its home-delivered meal service; however, many areas also offer group meals and provide transportation to and from locations where meals are served.

Although providing nourishment is an important aspect of its mission, Meals on Wheels also values daily socialization and safety checks. Elders receive a friendly visit from the volunteer delivering the meal, and volunteers are trained to check for and identify safety problems and to call for help from professionals and family members when needed.

There are more than 5,000 independently run Meals on Wheels programs across the country. To find a home-delivered meal program near you, visit Meals on Wheels’ website.

2. Medical equipment loan closets

Medical and other aide equipment can be expensive, and often it is needed only for a short time. An older adult coming home from rehab may have a short-term need for a wheelchair, walker, or commode. Purchasing a brand-new item such as this may feel like a waste of money and time.

Fortunately, medical-equipment loan closets can be found in churches, nonprofit groups, and social-service agencies across the nation.

Gently used items that are no longer needed by the original owner are donated to the closet and then given away or loaned to people in need. Anyone in need of the equipment can use this invaluable resource.

A quick online search for medical equipment loan closets in your area will likely guide you to the nearest programs in your community, or call your county’s Office for the Aging to get referrals to loan programs. Those in need of specific items can visit the closet or call ahead to inquire about the availability of needed items.

3. VA benefits for seniors

If you or your loved one is a U.S. veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a significant benefit called Aid & Attendance for those who need help caring for their daily needs at home.

According to a 2012 New York Times article on this little-known program, “to qualify, a veteran need not have suffered a service-related injury. He or she only had to have clocked at least one day of his or her 90-day minimum military service during a time of war and need caregiving for activities of daily living.” The guidelines indicate that the veteran must first qualify for the VA’s general pension program—meaning the person must be disabled or over 65.

The best way to learn about this benefit and many others offered to elderly veterans, including coverage for adult day-care programs, respite for caregivers, and home-based primary care, is to contact your regional VA office and speak to a benefits counselor. You can find your local office on the VA website.

4. Rebuilding Together

For seniors with limited income and resources, maintaining a home can quickly become overwhelming, especially when there are expensive repairs and safety upgrades that need to be made. Enter Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit organization that provides extensive home rehabilitation and modification services to low-income homeowners.

According to the organization’s website, “80% of those aged 50 and older own their own homes. 92% want to age in their own homes. To do so, it is critical that their home meet their changing safety and security needs as aging presents developing living hazards.”

Individuals interested in receiving home rehabilitation and modification services must meet specific guidelines and complete an application and home inspection process. Those whose applications are accepted benefit from exceptional, professional improvements to their home. To learn more about the application process, search for your local chapter on the Rebuilding Together website.

5. Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Programs

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) says Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Programs (TEDPs) provide “free or low-cost equipment to qualified individuals to accommodate their hearing loss and improve phone access.” The HLAA website offers a state-by-state list of TEDPs.

There are many wonderful programs and services to help the elderly and their caregivers and loved ones. Once you discover them, they make a real difference for aging people—and their caregivers.

If you know about a great program or service for elders, we want to know! Contact

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Allison Gould, ESME’s Caregiving Resource Guide, is a licensed clinical social worker. For many years, her work focused on adolescents and their families. She currently provides outpatient counseling services to people aged 65 and older, as well as to their caregivers, at the Center for Healthy Aging at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, New York.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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