Paying for Senior Living

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

It wasn't supposed to be this way. But no doubt about it---times are tough. Paying for senior living can feel suffocating. Breathe easy. We'll show you ways to lighten your financial burdens with the hundreds of programs and services out there.

Paying for Senior Living & Retirement Planning

Where Do I Start?
You may know immediately what's hurting you financially. Maybe it's your prescription drugs. Or possibly your mortgage payment. It could be it all feels overwhelming. So here's a good place to start.

Grab a pen and a sheet of paper. Write down all your sources of monthly income (e.g. Social Security, IRAs, employment, etc.). Then list your bills like mortgage, utilities, prescriptions, credit cards, groceries and so on. Write down everything. Don't forget your cat's litter.

This may exercise may feel elementary, but you'd be surprised how many seniors "wing it" with their bills every month. Knowing exactly where you stand financially will be your foundation, however wobbly it feels right now. 

Do you have more going out than coming in?

Consumer Credit Counseling
If these three words scare you, we don't blame you. There are certainly horror stories from people who';ve trusted their bills to fly-by-night "counseling" companies only to be in worse shape than when they started.

However, for many consumers, credit counseling is the medicine they are looking for, especially when paying for senior living becomes impossible. A great place to start is the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Protection website. They'll give you tips on finding the right counseling company. And there's even a list of recommended companies by state.

Mortgage Relief
If your mortgage payment exceeds 31% of your pre-tax gross income, you may qualify for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

You must also have a documented financial hardship. Visit .makinghomeaffordable.gov for more information.

Health Care Assistance
A great place to start is the Administration on Aging's website. Click on "Find Local Programs". Then enter your location and select "health insurance". You'll get all of the resources in your area.

Under the Hill-Burton Free and Reduced-Cost Health Care law, about 200 U.S. health care facilities provide free or reduced-cost care to those with qualifying income levels.

Prescription Drug Assistance
Many seniors can't live without their prescription drugs. Yet, the monthly trips to the pharmacy are killing their budget, even if they have Medicare's Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan (MAPD).

Enter BenefitsCheckUp, a program sponsored by the National Council on Aging and CVC Pharmacy. Fill out the online application to see if you qualify for some of the over 2,000 benefit programs around the country. The benefits in this program could make paying for senior living that much easier.  

If you want to find assistance for a particular pharmaceutical or medical company, try the  excellent RX Hope site.

Another source for assistance is the state you live in. For example, Florida's SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) has several programs for prescription drug assistance whether you have no insurance or you need to "fill the gap" left by Medicare.

To find programs in your state, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nutrition
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was formerly the Federal Food Stamp Program. If you are 60 years-old or older and/or disabled, you may qualify for assistance based on your household income.

The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program offers low-income seniors coupons "that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs."

Senior Employment
Paying for senior living may mean going back to work even if it's just part-time. Fortunately, not only do you supplement your income, you also get other benefits like increased self-esteem, improvement of your cognitive abilities and a sense of belonging, all things that can be hard to find when you are no longer working.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is a program to "help low-income, unemployed individuals aged 55+ find work." Visit the National Council on Aging for more information.

Another job source for low income seniors is Experience Works and their JobReady program. It's a free service that assesses your interests and skills and then matches you to jobs in your area. 

Benefits Finder
The U.S. government site is a tool to find benefits and assistance from their more than 1,000 Federally-funded programs. Fill out the pre-screening questionnaire (Benefit Finder) and see what programs you may qualify for such as job training, nutritional assistance, health, education and more.

Summary
In today's economy, paying for senior living can feel overwhelming, but help is out there. Write out a budget and find your pain points. Then get help from one of the organizations we've listed.

Updated: Sep 23, 2011

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