Alabama Community Resources for Seniors
Finding affordable senior care can be a challenge. However, many communities offer free and low-cost services to elderly residents in need. Caregivers can also benefit from certain community programs, receiving free counseling and respite care, among other services. This guide will discuss the many community resources Alabama residents can use to make senior care more accessible.
Alabama senior care options
Home care services
Each year, millions of seniors receive home care services as an alternative to facility-based care. As their daily tasks become harder to manage, they require more help. Home care providers can assist seniors with many tasks to help them “age-in-place.” Quality, affordable home care providers can be challenging to find, but seniors can get help by working with any of the nation’s age-in-place advocacy groups.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is a nationwide resource for seniors who receive home-based care. Through investments and advocacy efforts, the ACL makes in-home care more affordable and more accessible to seniors. Families can contact the ACL for assistance finding home care services in their community, and get advice for choosing quality providers.
The National Age In Place Council (NAPC)
The National Age In Place Council (NAPC) is another valuable resource for seniors living at home. The organization is dedicated to helping elderly adults age in place and offers many free resources on its website. For example, their website features an “Age-in-Place” template for seniors to plan their retirement. Seniors can use the template to create a long-term care plan. Additionally, the NAPC’s website offers a collection of information, designed to educate seniors about the ins-and-outs of home-based care.
Many of Alabama’s counties offer companionship programs to seniors within the community. For example, Mobile offers a foster grandparent program, a senior volunteer program, and a typical companion service to community members. Each county’s programs may differ, and each program’s services may vary. Seniors who want to know more about their community’s companionship programs should contact their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for more information.
Alabama’s local AAAs each operate their own community senior centers. Each senior center (or senior activity center) is free to use, however, each location’s services and programs may vary. Many offer group activities, crafts, educational programs, group meals, and recreational events, like spelling bees or line dancing. Seniors should contact the local AAA for information about seniors centers and community events in their county.
Respite care services
Family caregivers play can play an important role, but it’s important for them to have breaks and take time for themselves. However, many family caregivers don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, there are several free resources to help Alabamians find respite services.
Alabama Lifespan Respite Resource Network
The Alabama Lifespan Respite Resource Network (ALRRN) is an advocate for caregivers statewide, offering various free resources and services. The ALRRN offers free caregiving courses, informational articles, and referrals to other services when necessary. Caregivers can also access voucher respite services through the ALRRN to make temporary care more affordable. A caregiver helpline is among the ALRRN’s free resources, which can be reached at (256) 859-4900.
ARCH Resource Center
The ARCH Resource Center is available for free to anyone in the nation. Caregivers can use ARCH to locate respite care services in their community and learn more about respite advocacy groups in their state. Additionally, ARCH’s website features various free sources of information that caregivers can use to learn more about respite.
Hospice and palliative care
U.S. citizens who are nearing the end of their life can access free resources through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). The organization offers online classes, informational webinars, and educational articles to help families learn more about end-of-life care. Patients and their families can access free counseling through the NHPCO to help them cope with terminal illness, as well as low-cost hospice and palliative care. Interested families should visit the NHPCO’s website for in-depth information about their services and resources.
Resources for caregivers
Quality caregivers are the backbone of healthy aging for many seniors. It’s important for caregivers to understand their role so they can best assist their family member while properly caring for themselves. Many communities throughout Alabama offer free resources to promote educated caregivers, such as free classes or informational articles. The federal government also sponsors programs to support caregivers.
Alabama Cares is a type of family and caregiver supports program (FCSP). The program works in conjunction with the National FCSP. The program’s services are not free to Alabama residents, but eligible caregivers may access them for a reduced cost. Qualifying caregivers can receive temporary respite care, training, counseling, and supplemental services through Alabama Cares, all free of charge.
To qualify as a caregiver, a person must provide care to someone who is at least 65 years old. The caregiver must provide care at least two or three times a week, and the care recipient must require assistance with at least three activities of daily living (ADLs). There are no financial limits, however, a person’s cost share for participation is based on their income.
Caregiver Action Network
Caregivers may also use the Caregiver Action Network (CAN) to ask questions or receive support. The CAN’s website features a community forum where caregivers may discuss their concerns or assist others, and a Family Caregiver Toolbox (an assortment of helpful caregiving guides and informational articles).
National Alliance of Caregiving
The National Alliance of Caregiving also offers valuable information for caregivers. Their comprehensive collection of free resources cover a range of topics about caregiving and are accessible to anyone nationwide.
The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross’s website features a variety of free resources for caregivers, including dozens of informational guides and online classes. The Red Cross’s classes cover many different topics that could be helpful for caregivers, including CPR and first-aid. Caregivers can either take a class online, or they can attend one in-person at a Red Cross event. Family caregivers who want to learn more about the Red Cross’s free courses should contact their local chapter to learn about upcoming dates for classes.
Alzheimer's disease and dementia
The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) is the nation’s leading nonprofit advocate for people with living with dementia. Families across the nation can benefit from the AA, whether it be through their services directly or through their research.
Anyone who is affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may use the AA’s resources. The organization’s friendly volunteer staff offer free advice and counseling 24/7 over their helpline, which is accessible at 1(800) 272-3900. Caregivers may visit the AA’s website to learn which of the organization’s services are available near them, or they may call their local chapter of the AA for more information.
It’s common for seniors to have questions about their health care benefits. To help seniors understand their policies more clearly, Alabama offers free Medicare counseling through their State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). By participating in SHIP, seniors can get answers to their questions about Medicare and informational materials about their benefits. Alabama residents who want to learn more about SHIP should call their local AAA office, who can connect them with information about the program.
Medicare is a public health care program available to all elderly U.S. residents nationwide. However, Medicare policies are not free, and they often demand copays, deductibles, and monthly premiums for coverage. The amount a person pays for their Medicare plan depends entirely on their finances and the policy they choose. Policies with extended benefits typically cost more than basic policies. Medicare’s plans include:
Medicare Part A
Hospital insurance that steps in when someone needs inpatient care at a skilled nursing facility or health care in their own home. Most Part A policy-holders are subject to copayments and deductibles, but many do not pay premiums for their coverage.
Medicare Part B
This policy works a lot more like traditional medical insurance, and pays for durable medical equipment, visits to the physician, outpatient hospital services, and other medical services not covered by Medicare Part A. A Part B policy-holder will typically be charged a monthly premium for their plan, as well as copayments and deductibles for the medical services they receive.
Medicare Part C
Also known as, Medicare Advantage, this police operates differently than Parts A and B. Medicare Advantage allows Medicare policyholders to receive coverage from private healthcare insurance providers, which may allow seniors to receive services for a lower copayment than an Original Medicare Plan. Those enrolled in Part C may receive all of the benefits offered in Parts A and B, in addition to extra benefits unavailable through the other two plans, including prescription coverage.
Medicare Part D
And, finally, the Medicare policy that covers prescriptions. Medicare Part D is available for anyone with Medicare. Policyholders who enroll in Medicare Part D to pay for their medications must pay an additional premium to receive the benefits. As a result, they may obtain their prescription medications at a low cost.
Seniors with Medicare are not automatically disqualified from receiving Medicaid. In fact, millions of Medicare beneficiaries also receive Medicaid. Seniors who need assistance paying for their medical bills beyond the scope of Medicare often enroll in Medicaid, which can pay for care and cover the costs of Medicare.
Medicare recipients can use their Medicaid coverage to pay for Medicare’s copayments, deductibles, and premiums. However, a person does not need Medicare to qualify for Medicaid. Anyone who meets Medicaid’s financial and medical requirements may receive benefits. To learn more about Medicaid eligibility requirements and benefits, call Alabama’s Medicaid office at 1 (334) 242-5000.
Seniors who served on Active Duty for the Armed Forces may be eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA offers several benefits programs to seniors, including low-cost health care and a monthly pension. Seniors who live with a service-connected disability may be eligible to receive additional benefits, depending on their condition.
Aid and Attendance
Each month, thousands of veterans receive a pension from the VA. The funds are supposed to supplement a person’s existing income to help them meet their needs. The VA created the Aid and Attendance (A&A) program to assist seniors who require additional care and need extra funding to offset the costs.
A&A is an additional pension, distributed monthly with the VA’s primary pension. Veterans who have trouble completing daily tasks (like bathing, eating, or dressing) can qualify to receive A&A, depending on the extent of their needs. Additionally, bedridden and blind seniors can receive A&A. Institutionalized veterans may automatically qualify for A&A if they already receive a VA pension. Seniors and caregivers who want to learn more about A&A should visit the VA’s informational Aid & Attendance page.
VA health care programs
Many elderly veterans opt for one of the VA’s health care plans to supplement Medicare or private insurance. The VA offers a handful of policies, but the Standard Medical Benefits package is the most popular because of its accessibility. Some programs require policyholders to maintain a service-related disability, but the Standard Benefits package does not.
Veterans who were not discharged “dishonorably” may qualify for the Standard Benefits package. The package isn’t free, however, copays vary for each policyholder. Enrollees with low-income may have their copay waived or significantly reduced to accommodate them, depending on the results of their financial assessment.
Policyholders may use their benefits to pay for any long-term care services they clinically require. Eligible services include respite care, home health care, and adult day care, among others. Veterans with a service-related disability may qualify for prioritized coverage, depending on the extent of their injury.
Veterans should note that the VA will not pay for a person’s room and board if they are institutionalized. Any services that are billed inclusively with a person’s room and board are also ineligible for coverage. However, a person may use their VA benefits to pay for any additional long-term care services they need, regardless of where they receive them.
National care resources
Although many senior resources are sponsored by local governments or nonprofits, many others are operated nationally. These resources are accessible to seniors in all fifty states, including Alabama residents.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is one of the largest senior advocates in the United States. Although many of the organization’s benefits are exclusively available to members, others are accessible to anyone older than 55 years. Additionally, AARP’s online articles are free to anyone and do not require a membership to access.
Anyone over 55 years old can sign up for AARP, regardless of their retirement status. Membership is not free, and members are billed annually to keep their benefits. Member benefits include free health care services and exclusive discounts to stores and restaurants, among others. Seniors should visit AARP’s website or contact them directly for more information about their benefits or about becoming a member
The Eldercare Locator allows seniors to search for care providers in their community. Because the tool is a database of care providers in all fifty states, seniors anywhere in the country may use it to find help in their community. The Eldercare Locator is free and accessible to anyone who needs it.
Nutrition and wellness
As people age, nutritional needs change. Keeping up with these changes can be a challenge, but it’s crucial for seniors to adjust if they want to stay healthy. Fortunately, many federal and state programs offer nutritional assistance to seniors to help them make the transition.
The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA)
The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA) should be the first destination for seniors who want to learn more about their nutritional needs. Meals on Wheels started to program to educate seniors about their needs, and today it’s one of the biggest advocates to geriatric health in the nation. The NRCNA’s resources include educational nutrition programs, caregiver classes, and free sources of information to educate seniors and their families.
Group Dining Sites
Each of Alabama’s senior centers also serves as a group dining site. Community members can gather daily at each senior center to eat a warm, nutritious meal for free (although donations are accepted). Seniors are limited to one meal per day, which is required to make up at least ⅓ of their daily nutritional needs. To learn more about group dining in your area, contact your local senior center for more information.
Fitness and recreation
Each of Alabama’s senior centers offers fitness and recreational programs for elderly adults within the community. These programs vary by county, and seniors are typically allowed to participate for free. Seniors should contact their local senior center to learn more about upcoming recreational events in their area.
Seniors may also participate in one of the Center for Health Aging’s fitness programs, which are held in counties throughout Alabama. Each program is community-based, and each targets a specific category of fitness. The CHA’s programs include:
- Active Choices
- Active Living Every Day
- Fit and Strong
- Healthy Moves for Aging Well
- Walk With Ease
Seniors should contact the program manager of the programs they’re most interested in to learn more. In addition, They may call the CHA at (571) 527-3900 for more information.
Legal assistance for seniors
Free and low-cost legal services are easily accessible to seniors in Alabama, thanks to the Alabama State Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer Program and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office. These programs work together with seniors to bring them effective legal counsel without a high price tag and are available statewide.
The Alabama State Bar Association (ASBA) sponsors a volunteer lawyer program that connects legal counsel with low-income residents statewide. Lawyers are available in each county and can assist with various types of legal cases. Additionally, the program often holds wills clinics and “Ask a Lawyer” sessions where attendees can get quick assistance and advice. Seniors who want to know more about the ASBA Volunteer Program should call (334) 269-1515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Seniors who are being abused or neglected often feel alone or powerless, and need help fighting for their rights. This is where the Long-Term Care Ombudsman's (LTCO) office of Alabama comes in - to help institutionalized seniors in need.
Anyone who suspects elder abuse (toward themselves or someone else) can call (800) 243-5463 to be connected with their local LTCO office. The LTCO’s services are always free and available to all Alabamians.
Eventually, all seniors reach a point where driving is no longer a safe activity. Many seniors resist losing their independence and wonder how they can maintain a high quality of life without driving. Almost every county in Alabama offers senior-specific transportation services to residents, and the state’s public transportation systems are particularly accessible to elderly and disabled riders.
Most of Alabama’s communities have their own public transportation systems. Many of them offer discounted rates to seniors who are over a certain age. For example, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transportation Authority (BJCTA) offers discounted tickets to riders with a Medicare card and riders over the age of 62. The ticket prices are significantly reduced and can cost as little as $.60 for a single ride. Contact your county’s transportation authority to learn more about discounted public transit fares in your community.
In addition to public transportation, the BJCTA sponsors Paratransit and VIP services to accommodate mobility-impaired riders. ADA-eligible seniors who prefer curb-to-curb, direct transportation instead of fixed bus routes may prefer Paratransit or VIP. RIders do not have to wait at a bus stop to catch their ride, allowing them to travel with peace of mind.
Paratransit and VIP rides are not free — riders must pay a $2.00 fare to ride one-way or $80.00 for unlimited rides. If a rider needs a personal attendant or service dog to travel with them, their accompanying party may ride for free.
Traveler’s Aid is a volunteer organization targeted at seniors in need of transportation. The organization offers free rides to seniors statewide and helps them connect with other ride services when they cannot assist. Unlike the other services on this list, seniors may only use Traveler’s Aid to go to medically-related appointments.
Proximity of care is very important when considering options
Research care options that are nearby when thinking about the next step for your loved ones.
Leona J. Werezak RN, BSN, MN is a registered nurse and adjunct nursing professor. She has 24 years experience working in a variety of healthcare settings including such remote locations as the Arctic Circle. Her research in early stage dementia was published in the Canadian Journal of Nursing Research and re-published in their 40th anniversary issue which showcased exceptional research published since the journal began. Her work in dementia care has also been published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. She currently teaches surgical nursing care on a thoracic/vascular unit to baccalaureate nursing students. Her clinical work with nursing students involves extensive work with older adults who have multiple chronic health conditions.