Senior Resources in Pennsylvania
As they age, seniors may find they need additional resources in order to maintain their quality of life. Family members who help care for senior relatives may also need resources to help them balance their caregiving duties with the rest of their responsibilities. Each state offers various resources designed to help seniors and their family caregivers get the health care, nutrition, legal assistance, and other services they need. This guide explains some of the primary community resources for seniors offered in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania senior care options
When elderly individuals in Pennsylvania can no longer safely manage activities of daily living independently, there are a number of helpful options available to step in. Seniors may choose to move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, where their needs can be attended to by qualified staff and medical personnel. Other seniors may remain in their homes or move in with family caregivers. In-home assistance may be available to those seniors.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging provides a variety of resources, programs, and services for seniors, including help at home, housing assistance, and caregiver support, among others. Pennsylvania’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) are known as the Link. This is a service seniors and their caregivers can use to connect to local resources offered by the Department of Aging. Their helpline is available at (800) 753-8827.
Local resources are coordinated by Pennsylvania’s Area Agencies on Aging, which work together with the Department of Aging to ensure that seniors have access to programs and resources in their local area. The Department of Aging maintains a list of Area Agencies on Aging and the website and contact number information for each location.
Seniors should consider their end-of-life wishes and make plans accordingly. The Pennsylvania Department of Health offers information about Out-of-Hospital DNR Orders, who can apply for them, and how to use them.
Home care services
Seniors who intend to remain in their homes or who choose to live with family caregivers can benefit from in-home support services. Seniors can receive assistance with activities of daily living, medical care, and other types of support from an in-home caregiver.
Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) are administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. These services can help seniors living at home by providing home health care, respite care, transportation, companion services, and more. Pennsylvania has 12 HCBS programs, and each one has their own eligibility requirements. Seniors can access assistance determining which programs they might be eligible for by contacting an Area Agency on Aging.
Seniors or their family members searching for in-home care in their area can use the Eldercare Locator search tool to find medical support or personal care assistance in their local communities.
Caregivers taking care of senior relatives generally have their own jobs and additional families responsibilities — and, like any caregiver, they also need time for self-care. Respite care services relieve family caregivers for a period of time so that they can attend to other business or just take a break. Respite care can take place in the home or in a nursing facility or adult day care center.
Pennsylvania caregivers searching for information about area respite care services can check with the Alliance for Community Respite Care (ACRC) of Community Living Support Services (CLASS). They offer lists of respite care providers and services as well as newsletters and other information.
Another way citizens can locate respite care providers in their area is by contacting 211 and speaking with a community resource specialist. 211 is a social services hotline that connects community members and their families to important resources in their area. 211 is a free hotline that can be accessed 24 hours a day.
To learn more about state respite programs and related local resources, check out the National Respite Network and Resources center. They provide an online consumer guide to help citizens find resources and information for respite services in their state.
Adult day care
In addition to respite services, family caregivers of seniors may need supervision for their senior relatives during the day while they work, attend school, or care for children. Adult day care services are an option that can help families with these needs.
Adult day care centers are designed to provide supervision and assistance for seniors while their primary caregivers are at work or otherwise occupied. Depending on the level of care a senior needs, caregivers may choose a facility that provides social care, which provides supervision and assistance with daily living activities, or specialized care, which provides medical care in addition to supervision and assistance.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging maintains a list of adult daycare centers in the state. They also provide a PDF guide to choosing an adult daycare center for caregivers. Some seniors may be eligible for free or low-cost adult daycare services. To find out if you or someone in your life is eligible for assistance with adult daycare service costs, contact the local Area Agency on Aging.
The Eldercare Locator is another tool that Pennsylvania caregivers can use to locate adult day care services in their area. Contact them with any questions by calling (800) 677-1116.
Socializing with peers can help prevent feelings of isolation or depression and improve a senior’s quality of life. Senior centers are community resources that provide a space for seniors to gather and eat meals together, attend classes, access volunteer opportunities, and take part in community events. These activities allow seniors to remain active and connected to their communities. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging website provides a list of senior centers in Pennsylvania.
Hospice and palliative care
Hospice care is a type of care that is designed to provide patients with a terminal illness comfort and quality of life.
Hospice care is for patients who have decided to forgo any additional life-extending treatments. Instead, patients receive comfort care intended to provide them with dignity and relief during their last days. This can include palliative care, which is a type of care focused on pain relief. Hospice providers also offer caregiver services, like counseling and social services.
Hospice care costs are typically covered by most insurance plans, as well as by Medicaid and Medicare. However, there are grants and other types of funding designed to cover the costs of hospice care for seniors who are uninsured or unable to afford the costs on their own. Area Agencies on Aging can help seniors and their families locate programs that can help with these costs.
Seniors and caregiver can also use the National Hospice Locator to find hospice resources in their local area.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
Seniors and their families should be aware of common health conditions that affect the elderly. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s Disease Planning Committee has produced the Pennsylvania State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders which you can find at the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
To learn about signs and symptoms, risk factors, and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association is a good resource. You can find information, newsletters, and message boards on their website or call their helpline at (800) 272-3900 24 hours a day.
Seniors and their family members can find information about caregiving for Alzheimer’s disease patients at Alzheimers.gov, a website administered by the National Institute on Aging. You can also find Alzheimer’s disease news updates and information about clinical trials at this site. Contact the National Institute on Aging at (877) 696-6775.
If you want to find out more about research into Alzheimer’s disease and treatments, check out BrightFocus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting eye and brain disease research. You’ll find data, information, and advice for patients and caregivers at their site.
Pennsylvania seniors who are in need of medical treatment have access to a number of health care facilities, including 170 hospitals across the state.
Seniors and their caregivers can use the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs portal to check health care provider credentials. Patients can search by person, facility, or provider. The same portal can also be used to file complaints against health care providers.
Patients looking for more information on Pennsylvania physicians can also use the AMA Doctor Finder search tool. This tool provides information about physician licensing, which insurances physicians accept, and even office hours. For seniors who are covered by Medicare, the Physician Compare tool can help locate doctors who accept Medicare.
Health care is expensive and low-income, uninsured, or underinsured seniors may have difficulty affording necessary care. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers allows residents to search for safety net health clinics in Pennsylvania that see patients at no cost or on a sliding scale. Some clinics offer dental care as well as medical services. Local Area Agencies on Aging can help seniors find sliding scale clinics and prescription assistance programs.
Seniors who have health insurance are more likely to be able to access health care and prescriptions as needed. Pennsylvania seniors can receive free counseling about their Medicare options by using the state’s free health insurance counseling program, called APPRISE. Speak to a counselor by calling (800) 783-7067.
Seniors who are not eligible for Medicare and who are low-income may be eligible for medical assistance from Medicaid. Apply for Medicaid and other benefits by visiting the online application called COMPASS.
Health insurance is also available through the healthcare marketplace. Seniors may be eligible for subsidies that offset the cost of health insurance premiums. Find out more by visiting Healthcare.gov.
Medicare is a collection of health insurance plans available to eligible seniors over the age of 65. The four Medicare plans include Medicare A, which is a free plan covering hospitalization and various forms of inpatient care; Medicare B, a sliding-scale plan that pays for preventative care, ambulance costs, and durable medical equipment; Medicare C, a private plan that can be used to pay for health expenses like vision care and dental work; and Medicare D, a plan that pays for prescription medications.
The variety of Medicare options, costs, and eligibility requirements can be confusing, but seniors can access free counseling about their Medicare benefits by contacting Pennsylvania’s health insurance counseling program, APPRISE, at (800) 783-7067.
To begin an application for Medicare, seniors or their caregivers should visit Medicare.gov.
Seniors who are uninsured and low-income may be eligible for medical assistance through Medicaid, a medical insurance program for low-income citizens that is funded by the federal government and administered by the state.
In Pennsylvania, seniors can apply for Medicaid online using the COMPASS website, or visit a county assistance office to apply in person. Seniors can also call the Consumer Service Center for Health Care Coverage at (866) 550-4355 to apply by phone.
Seniors who have served in the military may be eligible for veteran’s benefits. There are six veterans’ homes in Pennsylvania where eligible veterans and their spouses can receive personal care and skilled nursing care. You can find out more about these veterans’ homes by visiting the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Senior nutrition and fitness
Appropriate nutrition and physical activity are vital components of good health for seniors. Pennsylvania seniors may be eligible for nutrition assistance and fitness programs that can help them access healthy food and appropriate exercise for their mobility level.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging lists a variety of programs designed to help seniors get healthy meals, including congregate meals available at close to 600 different senior centers in the state. These meals are usually served once a day and are free to seniors over the age of 60 and their spouses.
Low-income seniors can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) grocery benefits often called food stamps. Seniors or their caregivers can use the COMPASS site to apply online or visit a county assistance office to apply in person.
Seniors may also be eligible for coupons that can be exchanged for fresh produce at farmers’ markets or roadside stands through the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Contact the Pennsylvania SFMNP coordinator at (717) 772-2693.
Seniors who are homebound due to illness, disability, or a lack of transportation can still access healthy meals. Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that delivers meals to seniors who can’t easily go out to eat or shop. Find a Meals on Wheels program in your area.
Fitness and recreation
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging offers evidence-based fitness and wellness programs for seniors in conjunction with the local Area Agencies on Aging.
Seniors who are eligible to receive Medicare may also be eligible for a free gym membership through a program called SilverSneakers. You can search the SilverSneakers map to find participating gyms in your area.
Seniors who are looking for ways to spend more time outdoors may enjoy a reduced-fee pass senior pass from the National Park Service. This pass can give seniors access to many parks and public lands across the country. Find out details about how to get your reduced-fee pass by calling the National Park Service at (518) 474-0456.
Another way to access health and wellness services is by joining the AARP. This interest group focuses on providing services to seniors, and membership benefits include discounts on travel, health services, and various forms of entertainment. AARP membership can also give seniors the opportunity to participate in group events or volunteer in their communities.
Tax preparation assistance
Seniors who need help preparing their taxes may be eligible for free or low-cost tax assistance. There are several programs designed to help seniors prepare their taxes.
The IRS Free Tax Return Preparation and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program are both offered to all seniors who have an income under $54,000 in the U.S. Seniors can find information about local tax preparation sites by contacting 211.
The AARP also offers a tax preparation service that assists seniors who cannot afford to pay for tax preparation. This program is called Tax-Aide. You can find local Tax-Aide sites by calling (888) 687-2277.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services maintains a list of organizations that can help seniors, disabled individuals, and low-income individuals with legal matters.
Estate planning is important for seniors, but seniors may also be vulnerable to estate planning scams. The Pennsylvania Attorney General offers information that can help seniors avoid scam artists posing as financial or estate planners.
Seniors who are residents of a nursing home or long-term care facility can find advocacy services and dispute resolution assistance through Pennsylvania's Ombudsman Program. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for more information.
Accessible transportation helps seniors maintain independence and continue to access important community resources. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging offers a free transit program and a reduced-fare shared ride program for seniors age 65 and older.
The Centers for Independent Living can also help seniors locate nearby transportation programs that they’re eligible for. Seniors and caregivers can also call (713) 520-0232 for more information.
Seniors who continue to drive their own vehicles can increase their safety by taking a defensive driving course. Some auto insurance companies also offer discounts for drivers who complete driver safety courses. Both the AARP and AAA offer senior-focused driving courses that can help reduce older drivers’ risk of car accidents.
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.