Affordable senior care can be challenging to find. Fortunately, federal and state governments understand the challenges of finding senior care. Free and low-cost community programs in Arkansas help seniors access medical care, stay social, protect their legal rights, receive financial assistance for needed services, and more. But because most of these programs are run by small government offices or nonprofits with next to no advertising budget, many families don’t know about the many resources available. Compiled below is a list of resources devoted to improving the quality of life for Arkansas seniors and their families.
Arkansas senior care options
Home care services
As a person ages, managing activities of daily living (ADLs) without assistance may become challenging. If a person’s health impairs them from eating, bathing, or dressing independently, they may require personal assistance. Seniors can access information and care through a handful of federal organizations, each with its own unique approach.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is a federally sponsored organization serving families in all 50 states. The ACL exists to combat rising nursing home populations and offers free information about home-based care to the public. The ACL’s resources include information on the benefits of home and community-based living.
The National Age In Place Council (NAPC)
The National Age in Place Council (NAPC) is another federal organization offering free online resources to the public. Their resources focus on aging-in-place and include in-depth information about home-based care. The NAPC also offers free long-term care plan templates designed to help seniors better plan for their immediate and future care needs.
Companionship care offers basic assistance services with a primary focus on building a friendship with the senior to help fulfill their social needs. Typically, companions cost less per hour than personal assistants or home health care providers, making them a cost-effective alternative for seniors who are only partially dependent on care. Many communities sponsor volunteer companionship programs for senior residents of the area, allowing families to access basic in-home care for free. Contact the nearest Arkansas Area Agency on Aging for more information or call (866) 801-3435.
Additionally, low-income seniors who qualify for Medicaid may apply for a waiver to get coverage for companionship services through the state program, ElderChoices. Medicaid does not natively pay for companion care. However, the ElderChoices waiver allows seniors with certain needs to get coverage.
For a person to receive care through ElderChoices, they must qualify for Medicaid and clinically require a nursing home level of care to meet their needs. Individuals who do not clinically require personal assistance may not be eligible for the ElderChoices waiver. Contact the DHS Division of Adult and Aging Services (DAAS) for more information about state-funded companionship programs and the ElderChoices waiver.
Senior centers are located throughout Arkansas. Each county has at least one senior center, and most provide free transportation to help seniors who no longer drive. Locations offer a variety of free services for seniors to get active and socialize, including free classes and events. Some of the free classes and events senior centers offer include:
- Dancing lessons
- Group meals
- Quilting sessions
- Board game events
- Computer lessons
- Cooking classes
- Group exercise
Additionally, many senior centers offer meal delivery services for frail seniors. The service is available at no cost, and community members can get one nutritionally balanced meal delivered to their homes each day.
The Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas has a list of senior centers by county on its website, including contact information for each location. To learn more, contact the local senior center directly about upcoming events, meal times, and home delivery eligibility.
Respite care services
Caring for a family member full-time can be challenging, and all caregivers eventually need a break. Respite care services exist to help caregivers take a break. Arkansas offers several public resources to locate respite service providers, teach family caregivers about the importance of taking occasional breaks, and help pay for respite care.
Arkansas Lifespan Respite Coalition (ARC)
The Arkansas Lifespan Respite Coalition (ALRC) is a union of organizations promoting resources, services, and support for family caregivers throughout the state. Caregivers can visit the ALRC’s website to view free educational resources and visit the Available Services page to locate respite services. To learn more about the ALRC or to ask questions about their services, caregivers should call (501) 682-8231.
Family and Caregiver Support Program (FCSP)
Although the Family and Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) helps families with many aspects of caregiving, free and low-cost respite services are among their most popular resources. To qualify for benefits through the FCSP, a person must qualify as a family caregiver. The FCSP defines a caregiver as someone providing care to a person who is either 60 or older or living with dementia (regardless of age). Once accepted, family caregivers can use the FCSP to access more affordable respite care.
The FCSP provides its services through the local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) throughout Arkansas. To learn more about the program’s benefits or eligibility requirements, call (866) 801-3435 to be connected with your community’s AAA office.
ARCH Respite Network
The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center can be a useful tool for caregivers to connect with respite care providers. Caregivers can use ARCH to locate respite services in their community and to learn ways to relieve caregiver stress.
For caregivers to do their best, they require support and understanding. Training, counselling, and planning tools can help caregivers become better at their duties, making them more efficient care providers for their family members. Both federal and state governments offer free programs to help caregivers access affordable support while they navigate their new role in their family member’s life.
Family and Caregiver Support Program (FCSP)
The FCSP offers a handful of free resources for caregivers in Arkansas. The FCSP offers:
- Free information about caregiving
- individual counselling for caregivers
- An online message board for caregivers to have discussions and ask questions
- Transportation services
- Minor home modifications
- Support groups
- Caregiver training courses
To access the FCSP’s resources, a person must qualify as a caregiver or a care receiver. Care receivers must be at least 60 years of age or have dementia to qualify for the FCSP. Anyone over the age of 18 providing care to someone who meets the care receiver requirements qualifies as a caregiver for admission to the program.
Caregiver Action Network
The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is a collection of free online resources for caregivers. Anyone in the U.S. can access the CAN’s discussion boards as well. Their Family Caregiver Toolbox provides caregivers with a collection of caregiving guides and educational articles. The CAN’s resources are all available for free online to anyone who needs them.
National Alliance of Caregiving
Caregivers nationwide may access online resources from the National Alliance of Caregiving (NAC), including free training and a collection of educational articles. The NAC’s resources cover many facets of caregiving, and families can quickly find answers to their questions using the organization’s information database.
The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross offers a handful of free resources for caregivers, like informational guides and free training. Training courses are administered online and in-person, making it possible for caregivers with busy schedules to attend. The Red Cross’s courses change periodically, but their CPR and First-Aid courses are commonly offered at different times throughout the year. Caregivers should visit the organization’s website to learn more about their course schedule. Alternatively, local chapters can provide up-to-date information about upcoming events in the community for those who prefer in-person or over-the-phone communication.
Hospice and palliative care
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is a national organization offering free resources to Americans who are nearing the end of their life. They connect families with free and low-cost hospice care and offer free counselling to help them cope with a terminal illness. The organization also offers a handful of free resources on their website, including webinars and guides to help families navigate end-of-life care. Anyone nearing the end of their life may access the NHPCO’s resources, regardless of age.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease currently. This number is expected to reach 14 million by 2050, with a rate of one person developing the disease every 65 seconds. Rising numbers of Alzheimer’s patients mean memory care facilities are filling up, and family caregivers and stepping forward to fill in the gaps. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that 16.1 million Americans provide an estimated 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care to family members with dementia, worth a total value of $232 billion. Fortunately, many nonprofit organizations are stepping forward with resources to help caregivers, including free counselling, adult day care, and respite services for families living with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Association (AA)
As the nation’s largest nonprofit advocate for Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) resources are expansive, and the majority of them are free to families impacted by Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the AA sponsors millions of dollars in research toward Alzheimer’s cure and prevention, funded entirely by donations.
The AA’s resources are available to anyone impacted by Alzheimer’s — patients, caregivers, and family members alike. Their 24-hour helpline, accessible at 1(800) 272-3900, is open to all caregivers, where they may ask questions and discuss concerns regarding the disease. The AA also offers adult day care services to those living with Alzheimer’s, where specially trained staff supervise them as they partake in community activities. Caregivers may call their local chapter of the AA for more information about events in their community, or they may visit the AA’s website to learn more about the organization’s available services.
Alzheimer’s Arkansas is a nonprofit organization serving Arkansan families impacted by dementia. The Alzheimer’s Arkansas mission is to help those diagnosed with dementia “live with dignity and comfort until a cure is found.” Families can access each of the following through Alzheimer’s Arkansas:
- Toll-free 24-hour helpline for caregivers
- Financial assistance and training for caregivers
- Support groups and counselling
- Educational materials and classes for families
Caregivers who want to learn more about Arkansas Alzheimer’s should visit their website or call their office directly at (501) 224-0021.
National care resources
In addition to state resources, families in Arkansas of the organizations that offer care resources for families nationwide.
Anyone over the age of 55 may use the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as a resource. Organization members have access to all of AARP’s premier benefits. However, non-members can also access free information and training through the program’s website.
Prospective members of AARP do not have to be retired to join the organization, membership is available to all seniors. Memberships are not free, though, and many of AARP’s best resources (like discounts at certain stores and health care coverage help) are member-exclusive benefits.
The Eldercare Locator is a free database of senior care providers in all 50 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
Keeping up with nutritional changes is an important part of aging. Fortunately, many locations throughout Arkansas sponsor free or low-cost meals to make nutrition more easily accessible to seniors throughout the state.
The United Way of Central Arkansas offers a Congregate Meal Program (CMP) for adults 60 and older, where community members can come together and enjoy a nutritious meal. Meals are served daily, every Monday through Friday, at each of Central Arkansas’s senior centers (located in Conway, Greenbrier, Mayflower, Vilonia, Twin Groves and Mt. Vernon counties). Additionally, the program offers free transportation to help seniors get to and from meals. To learn more, contact the local senior center and enquire about upcoming congregate meals.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is open to low-income seniors who need assistance paying for groceries. Applicants must meet the program’s requirements to receive benefits and must undergo a financial screening before they submit their application. The financial screening determines if a person is eligible to receive SNAP and, if so, how much they will receive each month. Residents with few resources, large households, and low income typically qualify for the most benefits.
To learn more about SNAP, residents should contact the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The DHS can explain the program’s eligibility requirements in-depth and answer any questions families have about getting and using SNAP.
Fitness and recreation
Seniors can participate in any of the Center for Healthy Aging’s (CHA) fitness and recreational programs to socialize with peers and stay active. Each of the CHA’s recreational programs targets a specific area of fitness, like walking or weight-lifting. 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 or call the CHA at (571) 527-3900 for more information.
Choosing the right health insurance is vital for adults approaching their senior years. Many Americans have questions about health care plans and need guidance to make the right decision. The Arkansas Insurance Department aims to help with its State Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP).
By participating in SHIIP, seniors can learn about their options for health insurance from caring professionals. Arkansas residents can locate SHIIP Partners near them using the program map located on their website and contact their local branch to ask questions. SHIIP volunteers are trained and can answer most questions regarding health care coverage for Arkansan seniors.
In 2018, an estimated 55 million people are covered by Medicare. Medicare is a public health program for seniors and disabled adults, providing coverage for hospital visits, surgeries, and other common health care costs. Unlike many public health care programs, Medicare is not free, but anyone age 65 years or older may enroll. Beneficiaries typically pay a monthly premium for their plan and copayments for their prescriptions and appointments, and most plans have a deductible.
The amount a person pays for Medicare coverage is determined by the plan they choose — plans that cover more services are typically more expensive. Low-income seniors who need assistance paying for their Medicare policy may apply for Medicaid to receive additional aid.
Medicare Part A
Part A offers hospital insurance to beneficiaries and inpatient care at a skilled nursing facility or health care in their own home. Most Part A policyholders are subject to copayments and deductibles, but many do not pay premiums for their coverage.
Medicare Part B
This policy type offers 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 policyholder 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 health care 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 type 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.
Like Medicare, Medicaid is a public health care provider. However, Medicaid is reserved for low-income Americans who need assistance to pay for health care. Medicare policyholders may qualify for coverage through both plans if they meet Medicaid’s eligibility requirements.
Medicaid may cover copayments, deductibles, and monthly premiums associated with Medicare for those who qualify. Only financially and medically needy individuals may qualify for Medicaid — the program does not offer open enrollment. Each state directs its own Medicaid program and sets its rules for eligibility. For example, in Arkansas, an applicant must medically require the services they intend to pay for with Medicaid. To learn more about Medicaid coverage and eligibility in Arkansas, residents should contact their local Medicaid office.
Seniors who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses may qualify to receive retirement benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA awards millions of veterans with health care coverage, monthly pensions, and other benefits to seniors. Program eligibility depends on discharge, disability status, and time served. Veterans living with a service-connected disability may qualify for additional benefits through the VA, or they may receive prioritized coverage over veterans who were not injured during their service.
Aid and Attendance
Aid and Attendance (A&A) is a monthly pension awarded to veterans who require some level of personal assistance to complete their daily tasks. The A&A pension is intended to cover the costs of home-based care for veterans who clinically require it. If a veteran hires a home care provider to help them cook, clean, bathe, or dress, they may qualify for the A&A pension.
Veterans who already receive a monthly pension through the VA may automatically qualify to receive A&A if they need home-based care. Additionally, veterans in nursing homes automatically qualify to receive A&A. Recipients do not need to sustain a service-connected disability to get an A&A pension. However, the VA may award a higher amount to recipients who were injured during their service.
To learn more about the A&A pension, veterans should contact their VA caseworker. Additionally, the VA site has information about the AA program, including eligibility requirements.
VA health care programs
The Medical Benefits Package (MBP) is the VA’s foremost health insurance plan for veterans. Servicemen and women who were discharged for any reason other than “dishonourably” are eligible to enroll in the MBP, regardless of their income. In addition, the program does not deny applicants without service-connected disabilities; All veterans may apply.
All MBP applicants must undergo a mandatory financial screening after they apply. The financial screen determines how much an applicant’s copay, premium, and deductible will be if they enroll in the plan. Veterans with service-connected disabilities or a low income may qualify for copay waivers to reduce the cost of their VA health insurance policy.
Enrollees may use their plan to pay for many health care services, including community-based care and long-term care services like:
- Respite care
- Adult day care
- Personal care assistance
- Home health care
Veterans must clinically require the assistance they want to be covered for. If they do, their MBP benefits will kick in. For example, a person who moves into a nursing home must clinically require a nursing facility level of care for their benefits to apply; a person who willingly admits themselves to a nursing facility without a doctor’s orders may not receive coverage for their stay.
Enrollees should be aware that the MBP does not cover a facility’s room and board fees, and any services billed as part of room and board are also exempt from coverage. Care facility residents may only use their benefits to pay for services which are not included in their room and board, like professional therapy or memory care. To learn more, veterans should contact their VA caseworker and ask about their options for health care through the organization.
Legal assistance for seniors
As part of the Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership, the Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly (AVLE) program offers free legal services to seniors in eligible communities. In addition to AVLE, Arkansas residents can contact Adult Protective Services (APS) or the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman to learn about their rights and report abusive or neglectful activity.
Volunteer lawyer programs are usually a senior’s first choice when they need legal help. In Arkansas, the AVLE is the primary source of pro bono legal services for aging residents. The areas of law the organization’s volunteer lawyers cover include:
- Family law
- Life planning
- Public benefits
- Veterans benefits
- Elder law
AVLE’s services are free to those who qualify. Seniors must qualify as low-income to receive services through the AVLE.
Adult Protective Services
The Arkansas Department of Human Services sponsors an Adult Protective Services (APS) program to stop and prevent elder abuse. APS serves to protect elders who cannot protect themselves due to cognitive or physical impairments.
Anyone can contact APS to report elder abuse or neglect, regardless of their residency status or current location. Those who believe they have an incident to report can contact the Adult Abuse hotline 24/7 at 1 (800) 482-8049.
The Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman
The Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman (OLTCO) is a legal resource for seniors residing in nursing homes and other health care facilities. Elder mistreatment is a growing problem for many communities, and OLTCOs play an important role in reducing cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Nursing facility residents who are being abused, neglected, or exploited by their institution should file a complaint with their local OLTCO as soon as possible to start taking action. To file a complaint or learn more about the OLTCO’s mission, Arkansas residents should call (501) 682-8952.
As people age, getting around can become challenging. To help people who no longer drive, many communities offer free transportation services to disabled residents and adults over 60. Arkansas does not offer a statewide transportation service for seniors, but each region has its own program with benefits for elderly riders.
Rock Region Metro serves the Little Rock area. Seniors riders pay a discounted rate for their fare if they present a Discount Fare Pass when boarding. In addition to fixed route buses and vans, the RRM operates METRO Links, a service offering door-to-door pickup and dropoff for seniors and those with disabilities who are unable to ride public transit.
Northern Arkansas residents are served by the North Arkansas Transportation Service (ATS) and Ozark Regional Transit (ORT). The ATS offers affordable transportation for residents of Baxter, Boone, Fulton, Izard, Marion, Newton, Searcy, and parts of Carroll and Madison counties. Seniors who use ORT can take a fixed-route bus for a discounted rate or request a curb-to-curb pickup.
Southern Arkansas does not offer easily accessible public transportation, so many seniors rely on community-based transportation to get around town. However, the Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas offers free curb-to-curb transportation for senior residents on a first-come, first-served basis. Seniors who want to ride with the AAA’s transportation program should make a reservation at least 48 hours in advance to ensure a spot.