Illinois Senior Care Resources
Many seniors find that they need additional resources as they age, such as legal assistance, nutrition and fitness programs, increased access to health care services, transportation, and more. The state of Illinois offers a number of resources to seniors and their families to help meet these needs. This guide provides an overview of some of the most important community resources available to Illinois seniors.
Illinois senior care options
Activities of daily living often become more difficult with age. There is a variety of ways that seniors can get the help that they need, depending on their preferences and the level of care required. Seniors may choose to live in an assisted living facility or nursing home, or they may live with family or in their own homes and receive in-home care.
Home care services
In-home support services can allow seniors to age in place in their own homes or provide relief for family caregivers who take care of senior relatives in their homes. An in-home caregiver provides medical support, assistance with activities of daily living, or other types of care in the senior’s home.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services administers Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) that can be helpful to seniors living in their own homes or in a family member’s home. This can include adult day services, in-home care, and emergency response services. Seniors and their families can find out how to access services that they may be eligible for by contacting the Senior Helpline at (800) 252-8966 or by contacting an Area Agency on Aging.
Eldercare Locator is a resource that can help seniors and their families locate in-home care services that provide medical support, personal care, or homemaking tasks in their communities.
Respite care benefits both seniors and caregivers. Caring for a senior relative is a big job, and family members can't be caregivers 24/7. Respite care services allow family caregivers the time they need for work, travel, or personal responsibilities while ensuring the seniors in their lives always get the care they need. Respite care can be given in the home or can take place in a facility like a nursing home or adult daycare center.
The Illinois Respite Coalition allows caregivers to search for in-home, residential, or group respite care. The Illinois Lifespan Program is another resource that seniors and caregivers can use to find local respite care options.
Seniors and family caregivers can speak with a community resource specialist who can connect them with respite programs and other resources in their communities by calling 211. 211 is a free hotline designed to connect community members with necessary social services in their area.
For more information about state services and local respite programs, the online consumer guide provided by the National Respite Network and Resource Center is a useful source of information.
Adult day care
Seniors who need supervision or medical care during the day might benefit from adult day care services. Adult day care centers are facilities that provide senior care for elderly citizens while their primary caregivers are working or taking care of other responsibilities.
There are two main types of adult day care centers: centers that provide social care and centers that provide specialized care. Social day care centers provide supervision and give seniors the chance to socialize with each other while providing some assistance with daily living activities. Seniors who need medical care will need a specialized day care center. These centers can accommodate medical needs as well as providing supervision and assistance with daily living activities.
Adult day services are included among the Home and Community Based Services offered by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The Illinois Department on Aging maintains a list of adult day care centers in Illinois, and seniors or family caregivers can get help finding local facilities by calling the Senior Helpline at (800) 252-8966. Local Area Agencies on Aging may be able to connect eligible seniors and their families with programs that provide free or low-cost adult day care services.
Maintaining a healthy and active social life is important during the senior years. Senior centers provide seniors with space to meet and socialize with others in their communities. Senior centers also provide recreational events, educational programs, and volunteer opportunities. A list of the various senior centers in Illinois is provided by the Illinois Department on Aging.
Hospice and palliative care
Seniors should understand all of their options when it comes to end-of-life care, and that includes hospice care. Hospice care is an option for terminally ill patients who have six or fewer months of life left.
The purpose of hospice care is not to prolong life, but instead to provide patients with the best possible quality of life in their remaining days, and to allow patients to die with dignity. Patients may choose to receive palliative care, which is a type of treatment geared toward relieving pain and discomfort. Hospice providers also offer services including counseling, caregiver support, and social services.
Hospice care is covered by most health insurance plans as well as by Medicaid and Medicare. Patients who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover hospice care can still receive hospice treatments. There are grants and funds available that can help cover the cost for seniors who cannot afford hospice.
The Illinois Hospice and Palliative Care Organization provides an online locator to help seniors and their families find hospice providers in their area, as well as resources and news relevant to hospice care. The National Hospice Locator is another useful resource for families looking for hospice and palliative care services in the local area.
To learn more about hospice and palliative care, check the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. They provide primarily educational resources.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
The Illinois Department of Public Health provides information on Alzheimer’s disease and regional Alzheimer's disease assistance centers. Another popular resource to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease is the Alzheimer’s Association. Visit their website or call the 24-hour helpline at (800) 272-3900.
Seniors who are interested in clinical trials, Alzheimer’s news, and information about caregiving for Alzheimer’s patient can find more information by visiting Alzheimers.gov, which is maintained by the National Institute on Aging. You can contact the National Institute on Aging by phone at (877) 696-6775.
Another resource for Alzheimer’s advice, information, and data is provided by BrightFocus, a nonprofit organization that supports research into brain and eye diseases.
Health care information
There are 180 hospitals across the state of Illinois, in addition to numerous other types of health care facilities. Illinois patients can research any physician by visiting the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The Illinois Department of Public Health provides a tool to help seniors locate information about nursing homes.
The AMA Doctor Finder is a useful resource for researching physician licensing, office hours, and insurance information. Seniors who are on Medicare can locate providers who accept their insurance by using Physician Compare.
Seniors who are low-income or uninsured may be eligible for free or sliding cost prescriptions, medical care, and dental care. Contact a local Area Agency on Aging to find out what options are available in your area.
Health insurance coverage improves a senior’s ability to access the appropriate health care when they need it. There are several ways for seniors to access health insurance in Illinois
Seniors who are eligible for Medicare can receive free counseling about their Medicare options from the Illinois' Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP). Contact SHIP by calling (800) 252-8966.
Seniors who cannot afford health insurance may be eligible for medical assistance programs like Medicaid. Low-income seniors can check their eligibility or apply online by visiting the Application for Benefits Eligibility.
Seniors may also be eligible for subsidies that offset the cost of buying private insurance on the marketplace. Although open enrollment occurs toward the end of the year, some applicants may qualify to enroll outside the open enrollment period. Visit Healthcare.gov to find out more.
Senior nutrition and fitness
In order to maintain good health and the best possible quality of life, it’s important for seniors to eat well and get an appropriate amount of physical activity. Illinois offers nutrition and fitness programs to help ensure that seniors in the state have access to healthy meals and safe exercise programs.
For most people, eating a meal alone is not as enjoyable as eating with friends or family. Seniors often don’t eat as much when they’re home alone as they do when they’re in a social setting. That’s why the nutrition program offered by the Illinois Department on Aging includes congregate meals that are served in senior centers, churches, and other community centers where seniors gather. This gives seniors the chance to socialize while enjoying a healthy meal. The Department on Aging maintains a list of nutrition program sites, and you can also get more information by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging.
Low-income seniors may qualify for a food assistance program that provides funds to buy groceries. Seniors can check their eligibility and apply online for food assistance by visiting the Application for Benefits Eligibility.
Seniors can also receive help accessing fresh produce through the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). This program allows seniors to reap the nutritional benefits of fresh produce by providing them with coupons that can be spent at local farmers’ markets and roadside stands. The Illinois SFMNP Coordinator can be reached at (800) 323-4769.
The nonprofit organization Meals on Wheels deliver hot meals to seniors who can’t easily leave their homes for meals. Use their online tool to locate a Meals on Wheels program in your area.
Fitness and recreation
A Matter of Balance is a fitness program designed to help seniors increase their activity levels while reducing their risk of falls and fall-related injuries. You can find out more about A Matter of Balance and other fitness programs offered in your community by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging.
Medicare recipients are eligible for SilverSneakers, a program that provides seniors with free access to a local gym. Check the map on their website to locate participating gyms in your area.
Seniors may also be interested in joining the AARP for access to membership benefits that can promote fitness and good health, like discounts on travel, entertainment, and certain health services. The AARP also offers opportunities to volunteer and get involved in various community activities.
Those who enjoy spending time outdoors may be interested in a senior pass from the National Park Service. This reduced-fee pass, available for $10, provides access to parks and public lands across the country. Get the details by calling the National Park Service at (518) 474-0456.
Government benefit programs
Every state offers government benefit programs that help meet the needs of eligible seniors. Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans benefits are some important government benefit programs.
Seniors over the age of 65 who have worked for 10 or more years (or have a spouse who worked for 10 or more years) are eligible for Medicare. Medicare includes four different plans:
- Medicare A is a free plan that covers hospitalization and other types of inpatient care, as well as home health care
- Medicare B is a paid plan with sliding scale fees that covers health expenses like durable medical equipment, ambulance costs, and preventative care
- Medicare C is a private insurance plan that covers expenses not included in other Medicare plans, like vision and dental for those who are enrolled in both Medicare A and Medicare B
- Medicare D is a plan that covers prescription medication costs
Seniors can get started with their Medicare application by visiting Medicare.gov. The Illinois Senior Health Insurance Program can help by providing seniors with free counseling to help them understand their Medicare options.
Medicaid is a program that’s designed to make health care available to people who can’t afford health insurance. Seniors can check their eligibility for Medicaid in Illinois or begin an application by visiting the Application for Benefits Eligibility.
Veterans may be eligible for several different programs. Your local Veterans Service Office can help you determine what benefits you are eligible for, and assist you with applying for various benefits, such as the Aid and Attendance program. You can read more about Illinois’ veterans’ homes at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Tax preparation assistance
Seniors who have difficulty affording tax preparation services may be able to take advantage of programs designed to help seniors access free or low-cost tax assistance. The IRS website lists details about the Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
Seniors and caregivers can call 211 for information about local sites that offer free or low-cost tax preparation. The AARP offers a tax preparation program called AARP Tax-Aide that is free for seniors who cannot afford to pay for tax preparation services. Learn about local Tax-Aide sites by calling (888) 687-2277.
The Illinois Department on Aging provides legal assistance for seniors in matters ranging from consumer fraud to estate planning to elder abuse and neglect. Seniors and their relatives can seek local legal assistance by contacting their Area Agency on Aging.
The Illinois Attorney General provides seniors with a list of legal resources that includes information about how to report things like fraud, abuse, and neglect.
Seniors in long-term care facilities should be familiar with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. This program ensures that seniors living in long-term care facilities are aware of their rights, and can investigate complaints and help settle disputes between seniors and long-term care facilities.
A lack of transportation can be a barrier to independence and self-sufficiency. Programs designed to increase access to transportation for seniors can help fill the gaps when driving is no longer a safe option. The Illinois Department on Aging offers a Ride Free Transit Benefit to seniors and people with disabilities who meet certain income guidelines.
Seniors and caregivers should check out the Centers for Independent Living to locate transportation programs that serve their local area. Contact them by phone at (713) 520-0232.
Seniors who have their own car and maintain an active drivers license may benefit from the License Plate Discount Program offered by the Illinois Department on Aging. This can make it more affordable for seniors to keep their car on the road legally.
Senior drivers are at increased risk for accidents and may see their car insurance rates rise. Taking a defensive driving course can reduce the risk of an accident and potentially qualify seniors for a discount on their car insurance premiums. Both AAA and the AARP offer defensive driving courses that are geared specifically toward senior drivers.
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.