If you’re the caregiver for a financially challenged family member or another senior, you know how difficult it is for low-income older adults to keep up with their monthly expenses.
The Social Security Administration estimates that of the more than 46 million Americans receiving Social Security retirement benefits, 21% of married couples and 45% of single people rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. The average SSA benefit in 2021 for a single person was $18,516 per year, which makes it tough to keep up even for the most frugal or careful older adults living on Social Security.
While most seniors who need financial help already know about supplemental Social Security income (SSI), many other options for financial assistance are available to seniors. Unfortunately, many don’t know about these programs or haven’t applied for them because they aren’t sure how to begin the application process. As a caregiver, you can help your senior with the sometimes confusing alphabet soup of government programs, local organizations and foundations available to help seniors in need.
These are some of the financial resources available to help your senior:
National Council on Aging benefits checkup
The National Council on Aging has a tool that allows you to check what benefits are available in your area. Opportunities vary from state to state, so this is an easy way to find many resources by entering your ZIP code.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is generally for those living below the poverty line, but there are different requirements for seniors (those 60 and over). Check on the SNAP website to determine if your senior is eligible for SNAP; it may not be a lot of money, but it could be enough to make things a bit easier.
Extra help with Medicare prescription plan
Seniors are eligible for financial help with prescription medications if their combined savings, investments and real estate are not worth more than $30,950 (if married and living with their spouse), or $15,510 if they’re single or not living with their spouse. In addition, they must already be enrolled in Medicare part A or part B to qualify.
Go to the SSA website to determine if they qualify for this program. Depending on their prescriptions, it can be worth up to $5,000 a year.
Seniors who have Medicare and SSI – or Medicare and Medicaid – will get the extra help automatically, so they don’t need to apply.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers seniors the only U.S. government-insured reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage can help with cash flow problems for seniors who want to continue living in their homes. Some of the requirements are:
- Be 62 or older
- Own the property outright or have a low outstanding balance
- Live in the property as your principal residence
- Not owe any money to the federal government
- Be financially able to make ongoing payments of property taxes, insurance and any homeowner association fees
- Participate in an information session given by a HUD-approved home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) counselor
Single-family housing repair loans and grants
If your senior owns a home in a rural area that needs repairs, upgrades or safety features added and doesn’t have the resources to pay for these things, help is available, including loans and grants through the United States Department of Agriculture. Though some states offer higher amounts, your loved one can receive up to $27,500 if they qualify. There are some requirements for loan repayment, so read the information carefully before deciding whether to apply or not because you don’t want your senior to end up with more debt than they can manage.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides financial assistance to seniors who need help with their heating and cooling bills.
For older adults with vision or hearing loss, iCanConnect offers tools, technology and training on platforms and equipment. Seniors automatically qualify for this program if they’re on Medicaid or receive SSI.
Aid with paying for caregivers
As a caregiver, you have several options to receive compensation, depending on which state you live in. It’s well worth it to look into as many as possible to get the most help available. Check to see what’s available in your state.
Medicaid self-directed services
Through this program, the Medicaid recipient determines how their funds will be spent instead of the government. For more details and to apply for this program, visit the Medicaid website.
This program is similar to the Medicaid program but for veterans.
Company-offered paid family leave
Many companies offer limited paid family leave to their employees. If you’re working and caregiving, check with your human resources department to see if they have a plan to help with caregiving duties, supplement income or caregiving aid in other ways. Some states have paid family leave laws in place, so check this map to see if your state is one of them.
Researching and finding financial assistance for your senior may be one of the most important things you can do for them. Be sure to look into state-by-state opportunities for public aid. It may be challenging to locate supplemental income, grants and loans, but it will be worth it for your older adult to have a little less to worry about each day.