Okay, so they’re not a secret—it’s just that people don’t really know they’re out there.
Benefits through County Area Agencies on Aging
Your local county office of aging is a wealth of knowledge and information, although sometimes it takes a little knowledge to advocate for a benefit you think you need. One great free service they provide is Medicare plan advice. They train their volunteers who then provide one-on-one counseling with seniors, taking into account income, prescriptions, diagnoses, and any other relevant information. They are going to advise on how to get the coverage you need for the least expense—whether it’s lower premiums or lower copays.
Another often overlooked benefit through this agency is a medical alert system. You have to apply but, there is no income or asset limit to be eligible. If approved you are eligible for one of those medical alert systems you wear around your neck without having to pay any monthly fee (other than the home phone line they all require for the system).
There is some assistance available for in-home care if you are not medically or not financially needy enough for a skilled nursing/waiver program. It’s called the Options program. It uses a sliding scale based on income to pay for non-skilled in-home care—for example, someone to come in and do a little light housekeeping, or help with bathing.
Benefits through the Veterans Administration
One of the most common misconceptions I encounter is that people think they need to be disabled (or their Veteran spouse does) to qualify for a VA improved pension benefit. Wrong! If you need some help around the house, you might qualify; if a family member is helping you, you might qualify. If you or your spouse was a veteran, there may be more benefits out there you didn’t know you were entitled to. It’s worth looking into.
Other Available Benefits
Did you know that a lot of state and county benefits allow seniors to deduct their out-of-pocket medical expenses from their income in determining eligibility? This includes things like premiums, co-pays, the cost of assistive devices like canes and home health aides. Eligibility for food stamps is one example of a benefit that allows you to deduct medical expenses from income in making an eligibility determination.
Long term care planning isn’t just planning for a facility or even assistance. It’s making sure that you have enough to allow you to live the way you want to live and have access to the services you need. Even people with a good size savings amount at retirement could blow through it with an illness. I believe that it is in the best interest of most seniors to take the benefits they are entitled to and use that extra help to stretch those savings accounts as long as possible. You just never know what the future holds.