Senior Resources in Minnesota
As people age, accommodating their changing abilities and medical needs can be challenging, and many families begin their caregiving experience overwhelmed and unsure where to turn for senior resources. This guide covers the many free community resources for seniors living in Minnesota, including health insurance programs, financial assistance, long-term care, caregiver support, legal help, transportation services and more.
Minnesota senior care options
Home care services
Aging can make it challenging for people to complete their daily tasks. Yet many seniors want to postpone transitioning into a long-term care facility as long as possible. Home care services are a popular choice for seniors who need regular assistance but prefer to live in their home instead of a facility. Minnesota residents can use any of the state’s free resources to learn more about home care services, as well as to find home-based care providers in their community.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is an excellent resource for seniors to learn about home-based care. Federally-operated, seniors in all 50 states can access the ACL’s free sources of information. The organization aspires to make home care service more easily accessible to seniors so they may avoid institutionalization and “age-in-place.”
Nursing facilities are running out of room, and the ACL wants to make home-based care more common to combat the problem. Their numerous programs throughout the country help seniors age-in-place, and they regularly invest and create new programs to improve their services.
The National Age In Place Council (NAPC)
The National Aging In Place Council (NAPC) is another valuable source of information on home care. The NAPC’s website offers a helpful template tool that seniors can use to create an individualized long-term care plan. With their easily-accessible free resources about aging in place and home-based care, the NAPC hope to inform seniors about their options for affordable home-based care that preserve independence and quality of life.
There are no state-sponsored companionship services in Minnesota that connect seniors with companions to assist them, however, there are a few SeniorCorps programs that allow seniors to volunteer for others. For example, the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) connects seniors with children who have special needs so they can provide friendship and guidance. The Senior Companion Program (SCP) is similar, but it connects adults age 55 and over with older adults instead of children. Most volunteers work 15 hours a week, and they receive a stipend for their service.
Each of Minnesota’s counties has at least one senior's center to serve residents in an assortment of ways. The locations are administered by local agencies and offer various services and events to members of the community including arts programs, recreational activities, and public benefits counseling. Services are always free and available to anyone at least 65 years old. Seniors can visit the list of Minnesota community senior centers to find one nearby.
Respite care services
It’s common for a friend or family member to care for an aging relative. But all caregivers need to take breaks. It’s important to step away now and then to take care of personal matters and recharge. Many caregivers don’t seek out temporary care, convinced they won’t be able to afford it. Fortunately, there are organizations throughout the U.S. providing temporary senior care and supporting caregivers.
Family and Caregiver Supports Program (DARTS)
Many states have their own respite coalition for caregivers, but Minnesota does not. However, the DARTS program (discussed further in the next section: Caregiver support) offers many of the same resources to Minnesotans. DARTS can help seniors and caregivers access free and low-cost respite care services along with educational resources and counseling.
ARCH Resource Center
Seniors who need help finding respite care services can turn to the ARCH Resource Center for support. Caregivers can use ARCH to locate respite care providers in their community, or they can use the program’s educational resources to learn more about caregiving and the importance of taking breaks from their duties. Family caregivers should visit ARCH’s website to access their free resources.
Hospice and palliative care
U.S. citizens who are nearing the end of their life can use the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) free resources to learn more about end-of-life care. The organization provides free or low-cost hospice care to families in need, in addition to free counseling. The organization also offers free informational webinars, online classes, and a myriad of comprehensive educational articles about hospice and palliative care.
Informed caregivers play a crucial role in quality senior care. Family caregivers in Minnesota can access dozens of educational and supportive resources, including free classes and counseling.
DARTS is Minnesota’s version of the Family and Caregiver Supports Programs (FCSP) in other states. The program is open to caregivers statewide, offering educational programs, respite care, support groups, and counseling to participants. To participate in darts, a person must care for someone who is over the age of 65 or has Alzheimer's disease (regardless of their age). Caregivers can learn more about DARTS by calling (651) 455-1560.
Caregiver Action Network
National Alliance of Caregiving
The National Alliance of Caregiving (NAC) can be a helpful resource for caregivers. Founded in 1996, the NAC exists to educate caregivers about the role they play in their family member’s life. Caregivers can use the NAC’s in-depth collection of information to learn about a wide range of topics, covering almost every category of caregiving.
The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross offers a database of information about senior care and general health practices on their website. The organization’s resources for caregivers include courses in CPR and First Aid, among other emergency medical skills. Students can take any of the Red Cross’s classes in-person or online, making them easily accessible nationwide. Family caregivers who want to learn more about the Red Cross's free courses should contact their local chapter to learn about upcoming dates.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) is the nation’s foremost non-profit organization committed to researching Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. They educate family member and caregivers who want to learn more what it means to live with Alzheimer’s disease, and coordinate research on prospective new treatments. Anyone who is affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may use the AA’s resources, which are free thanks to the organization’s generous donors.
Many communities in Minnesota have a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association where residents can receive in-person assistance, counseling, or information. Use the organization’s locator tool to find a local Alzheimer’s Association office near you.
The Minnesota State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a free resource for seniors who want to learn about Medicare, Medicaid, and other available health insurance options. Residents of Minnesota can get individualized help with their health insurance to guarantee they are getting the best benefits for the lowest possible cost. Uninsured seniors can get in touch with SHIP to learn more about health care providers in the state and request recommendations and directions to quality providers who may assist them.
National care resources
Many senior care resources are administered on a state level while others are accessible nationwide and are not limited to residents of Minnesota.
Millions of seniors use the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as a resource for services and information. AARP provides a handful of free services to adults over 55, however, most of their benefits are exclusive to members. Anyone over the age of 55 may sign up as a member of AARP, whether they are retired or working. It is not free to sign up as a member of AARP, and memberships have to be renewed annually. As of 2018, over 38 million people are members of AARP.
Members of AARP can access a variety of benefits, including discounted or free health care services and discounts at a long list of store and restaurant chains. They are also welcome at any of AARP’s community events, and they may participate in any of AARP’s volunteer programs.
The Eldercare Locator is a popular resource for seniors and caregivers in the United States. The Eldercare Locator is a nationwide database of senior care providers, sponsored by the federal government. Using the tool, seniors can find in-home care providers, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities near them. Additionally, they may call the toll-free phone line at 1 (800) 677-1116 to inquire about nearby eldercare services.
Nutrition and wellness
According to the Minnesota Board on Aging, 85 percent of seniors are at risk of poor nutrition. Getting older can make cooking and grocery shopping harder, and many seniors find it challenging to meet their nutritional needs. To help seniors eat proper meals, the Board on Aging offers community dining services throughout the state.
Group meals happen almost every day at the senior dining centers located in most communities. Meal attendees do not have to pay a fee, however, donations are requested to help pay for the food and service. Additionally, seniors who are homebound can request home-delivered meals through the Board of Aging. Each meal is designed to meet ⅓ of a senior’s daily nutritional needs, and anyone who is 60 years of age or older may participate.
Seniors who want to learn more about Minnesota’s community dining services should call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1 (800) 333-2433.
Fitness and recreation
Fitness and recreational programs can be an excellent way for seniors to protect their health and socialize. Seniors who want to participate in a fitness program might consider one of the Center for Healthy Aging’s (CHA) choices, which are accessible in most communities. The programs are open to seniors over the age of 65 and aim to make seniors healthier through active living.
Each program focuses on an area of fitness, like walking, lifting, or flexibility. These 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 can call the CHA at (571) 527-3900 for more information.
Medicare is the most common health care provider for seniors in the U.S. Seniors can use their policy to pay for doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits, durable medical equipment, and more, depending on their plan. Although Medicare qualifies as a public health program, it isn’t free — most policyholders pay a monthly premium for their coverage. Most plans also have a deductible or copayment. The amount a person pays depends on the plan they choose and the extent of their medical needs.
Medicare Part A
This policy offers hospital insurance to beneficiaries, and 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
More like private health insurance, Part B 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, Part C 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
The last policy offers prescription coverage to 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.
When seniors need additional health care coverage, they might turn to Medicaid for help. Medicaid is available to low-income seniors statewide and pays for many basic medical services. It can also pay for Medicare’s premiums and deductibles, making it a valuable resource for millions of seniors.
Medicaid is only awarded to seniors who are low-income or medically needy. The amount of coverage a person qualifies for depends on their income and their medical needs. Many seniors receive full coverage through Medicaid and do not pay any amount toward their health care. To learn more about Medicaid, what it covers, and its eligibility requirements, call the Department of Human Services office at (800) 627-3529.
Seniors who served in the U.S. Armed Forces can get benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to pay for part of their care. While some veterans benefits are reserved for vets with service-related care needs, others are available to all veterans who were discharged for any reason other than “dishonorably.”
Aid and Attendance
Aid and Attendance (A&A) is awarded to seniors who live at home and need assistance doing daily tasks. Unlike a health care plan, A&A is awarded as a lump sum every month. Anyone who already gets a VA pension can receive A&A if they need it. To receive Aid and Attendance benefits, veterans must clinically require the services they’re paying for with the award. Once the funds are dispersed, recipients can use them to pay for whatever services they need, regardless of who provides them.
Veterans who want to learn more about A&A should contact their VA caseworker. caseworkers can discuss more about potential benefit amounts and eligibility.
VA health care programs
The VA offers a few health care programs to eligible veterans. Some programs are only available to veterans with service-related disabilities, but the Standard Medical Benefits (SMB) package is accessible to all veterans. The SMB package pays for most basic medical expenses and can be expanded to cover more.
Anyone enrolled in the SMB package can receive community-based services through the VA, if they have a clinical need for them. Eligible services include adult day care, respite care, and home health care, among a few others. Veterans with service-related disabilities usually get prioritized benefits, depending on the extent of their injury.
The SMB package usually requires a copay, but low-income veterans and veterans with service-related disabilities can get reduced rates. However, the SMB package will not pay for a facility’s room and board fees, regardless of a person’s income or disability-status. Services that are included in room and board are also ineligible for coverage. Veterans may only pay for medically necessary services with their VA health plan — room, board, and other non-essential fees are not covered.
Legal assistance for seniors
Most seniors need legal assistance at some point — Wills, probate, and trusts are some of the most common reasons a senior may hire a lawyer. However, legal fees can add up quickly, and can easily put families in debt. Fortunately, there are a handful of free legal services to help seniors manage their legal needs.
The Minnesota State Bar Association’s North Star Lawyer program provides pro bono legal services to seniors statewide. Each year, over 1,000 North Star attorneys offer up their time to help Minnesotans for free. The program is not limited to seniors, and seniors must qualify as low-income to participate. To learn more about North Star’s eligibility requirements and availability, visit ProJusticeMN.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
An Ombudsman is a consumer advocate who works with long-term care residents to protect their rights. Each region has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman who serves members of the community. Families can get in touch with their local Ombudsman to:
- File a complaint about long-term care providers in the community, if they are violating the health, welfare, safety, and rights of residents
- Ask for information about which long-term care resident rights are protected under the law
- Address personal concerns about long-term care providers
Ombudsman services are free to anyone who needs them. Minnesota residents can call 1(800) 657-3591 to connect with their local Ombudsman’s office. To learn more, read the Minnesota Board on Aging’s informational flyer about the state’s Ombudsman program.
Minnesota does not offer a statewide transportation service for seniors. However, many counties offer free transportation to elderly and disabled community members. The minimum age requirement for most programs is 65 years, and low-income seniors can request priority services.
Seniors can locate services in their community by calling the Minnesota Board on Aging’s Senior LinkAge Line® by calling 1 (800) 333-2433, or by emailing the program at email@example.com
Additionally, seniors in St.Paul/Minneapolis are allowed to ride public transit for a discounted fare. All-day passes start at $1 for seniors who present their ID card or their Reduced Fare card.
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.