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Government and Private Elder Resources

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With so many options and questions regarding elder care, it is important that you be well-informed and have access to the most up-to-date information. This article will provide you with brief explanations and resources for key elder issues such as housing, financial concerns, care-giving options, medical questions, and legal matters.

General Information -

For general information on many of your eldercare, care-giving, and senior living questions contact these organizations:

Administration on Aging This organization is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of various topics, programs, and services related to aging. The information is helpful for individuals, caregivers, community service providers, and researchers.

Administration on Aging
US Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, DC 20201
(202) 619-0724

Eldercare Locator Contact this service via its toll free number (800) 677-1116 or web site to be connected with your state's Area Agency on Aging (AAA). These agencies provide information on specific programs and resources available in your area such as transportation, food programs, assisted living, and community services.

National Institute on Aging Through the National Institute of Health, this organization conducts research on many age-related health issues and works to provide new information to the public.

PO Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
(800) 222-2225

Housing -

Where to live is a major concern among elders. In the past few decades, more options have been developed offering services for the varying needs of residents. Consider these questions when assessing housing options:

  • What specific change is the elder experiencing? What problems have arisen?
  • Are the needs temporary or permanent?
  • Is occasional or continuous help needed? For how long is assistance needed?
  • How does the elder feel about the change?
  • How has the elder compensated for the changes?
  • Are any of these changes harming the elder's health and well-being?

Different housing options include: in-home care, moving in with family, home-sharing, adult foster care, retirement communities, assisted living communities, continuing care communities, and nursing homes. For more information on these options and financial parameters contact these organizations:

American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging This association provides tips on choosing facilities and services, information on types of care, and other resources. Contact the headquarters in Washington, DC for your regional chapter.

2519 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-1520
(202) 783-2242 (t)
(202) 783-2255 (f)

Assisted Living Federation of America You can search their online database of assisted living communities as well as access many articles about transitioning to an assisted living environment.

Assisted Living Federation of America
11200 Waples Mill Rd
Suite 150
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 691-8100 (t)
(703) 691-8106 (f)

Medicare The government also provides a useful nursing home search tool on their Medicare website If you cannot access the web or do not want to, call the Eldercare locater (800) 677-1116 previously listed for nursing home information.

National Association of State Units on Aging This association can connect you to your state's Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, which visits nursing homes on a regular basis and handles complaints. Call 202-898-2578 for your state's office or check out their website at

Financial Concerns -

How the family and the elder can afford the many services required is an important question. If the elder has long-term care insurance, talk with his provider about what is covered. You should also research the options of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services This government center answers questions on coverage and services through these programs. Search the website and find specific hotline numbers for your state.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244-1850
(877) 267-2323

Medicare Rights Center This non-profit provides resources about Medicare and educates the public about the various benefits. You can also contact this center for a state specific health insurance assistance program.

Medicare Rights Center
1460 Broadway, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10036
(212) 869-3850 (t)
(212) 869-3532 (f)

Social Security Administration To understand the Social Security program or ask questions about benefits, eligibility, or retirement, contact this office.

Social Security Administration
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235
(800) 772-1213

Caregiving Options

Many care-giving options are available for elders who live at home, either alone or with family. Because services are dependent upon your area, contact your Area Agency on Aging through the Eldercare locator (800) 677-1116 for specific services. Here are a few options to think about:

Nutrition Concerns -

  • Meals on Wheels
  • Congregate Meals

Companionship -

  • Telephone reassurance
  • Senior companions
  • Adult day care
  • Senior centers

Household Tasks -

  • Handyman and chore service
  • Home care including shopping and activities of daily living
  • Home improvement through government grants

Transportation -

  • Escort service
  • Senior Transportation, i.e. "Dial a Ride" in most phone books

Caregiver Needs -

  • Respite care
  • Support groups

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What kinds of help are available through your agency?
  • During what hours can the service be provided?
  • What is the length of time the service can be provided?
  • What are the eligibility requirements and what financial and medical documents are required?
  • How much does the service cost?
  • What are the qualifications, training, and credentials of staff?
  • Is the agency bonded?
  • Who is liable and responsible if an employee has an accident in the person's home or if theft occurs?
  • Who can I contact if I have concerns about the services?
  • What is the application procedure? Can someone help with the application process?

Medical Questions -

Understanding diagnoses and prescriptions is a large concern for many elders. Aside from talking directly to your pharmacist or doctor, you can access information on the Internet.

MEDLINEplus and Seniors Health You can access the National Medical Library and learn about various health topics and drugs as well as research through their Medical Encyclopedia and Dictionary. There are also directories for medical professionals in your area. Visit or

Healthfinder This federal web site is a resource for finding government and non-profit medical and health information. Visit

If you do not have access to the Internet, your local library may have many comprehensive medical guides and dictionaries written in layman's terms.

For questions about diagnoses and medical conditions:

  • The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide by Harvard Medical School, Anthony Komaroff.
  • Cornell Illustrated Encyclopedia of Health by Antonio Gotto, ed.
  • Merck Manual of Medical Information by Robert Berkow.
  • Physician Desk Reference by Medical Economics Staff.

For prescription drug reference:

  • Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs: 2003 by H. Winter, M.D. Griffith and Stephen W., M.D. Moore.
  • Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2003: Everything You Need to Know for Safe Drug Use by James Rybacki and James W. Long.
  • Physician's Desk Reference Guide to Prescription Drugs by Robert W. Hogan.

For questions about specific conditions, contact the condition's association. Here are a few:

Alzheimer's Association 919 North Michigan Avenue #1100
Chicago, IL 60611
(800) 272-3900

Arthritis Foundation P.O. Box 7669
Atlanta, GA 30309
(800) 283-7800

American Cancer Society 1599 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
(800) ACS-2345

American Diabetes Association ATTN: National Call Center
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311

American Heart Association 7272 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75231
(800) 242-8721

National Parkinson Foundation Bob Hope Research Center
1501 NW 9th Avenue
Bob Hope Road
Miami, FL 33136-1494
(800) 327-4545

American Stroke Association 7272 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75321
(888) 478-7653

Legal Matters -

There are many legal concerns at this time of life. With the high costs of health care, many elders should carefully plan their estate and will. In addition, there are also questions concerning the elder's rights and requests in the circumstance that he cannot make decisions.

Here are a few legal concerns to be discussed:

  • Power of attorney, standard or durable
  • Healthcare directive
  • Healthcare proxy
  • Estate planning and estate taxes
  • Living wills
  • Gifting
  • Guardianship
  • Conservatorship
  • Will

Many of your questions may be answered through a search on the Internet: This web site offers free law advice, breaking down complicated topics into layman's terms. You can read articles written on specific topics such as Wills and Estate Planning and Retirement and Elder Care. You can access this information at

H.E.L.P. Dedicated to "helping people meet aging-related legal and care challenges," this web site provides information about legal planning and insurance and Medicare issues. Visit

You may also want to speak to an elder attorney if you are addressing the following issues:

  • Long term planning such as estate planning or creating trusts.
  • Violation of rights.
  • Review of official documents or contracts.
  • Quick decisions in an emergency.
  • Believe a loved one has been denied benefits by Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
  • Drafting of wills, advance directives, power of attorney, or other legal documents.
  • Suspicion of elder abuse.
  • Disputes of insurance claims or settlements.

When selecting an elder attorney, here are some questions to ask:

  • What percentage of the practice is devoted to elder law?
  • Does the attorney handle Medicare and Medicaid cases?
  • How long has the attorney been doing this type of work?
  • In which professional organizations is the attorney active?
  • Where did the attorney go to college or law school?
  • What are the attorney's rates and how does he bill?

When consulting an attorney, bring these items if available:

  • A complete listing of assets, including the person's house, and an indication of how the assets are held.
  • The sources and amounts of the person's monthly or annual income.
  • The amount of the person's monthly or annual expenses.
  • A copy of the individual's legal documents, including the will, durable powers of attorney, living will, etc.

Conclusion — At times navigating elder resources may be overwhelming, simply because there are so many resources available to address varying issues. Assess your family's needs and use these resources to answer your questions and voice your concerns.

Author: Karen Clevering, Clinical Content Editor, © All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information about educational or therapeutic approaches is provided for educational purposes only. Certain treatments may or may not be covered through your benefit plan. Coverage typically depends on your plan specifications and relevant guidelines maintained in relation to your benefit plan.

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