Seniors in Massachusetts have a number of resources to assist them in finding, affording and transitioning into long-term care. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what resources are out there to help them or where to begin looking. This guide covers Massachusetts care options, health insurance, financial assistance, tax preparation help, transportation services, and more.
Massachusetts senior care options
The Massachusetts Attorney General has an Elder Hotline that can help with many topics that trouble the elderly, including debt services, health insurance, landlord/tenant issues, scams, and more. The telephone number is (888) 243-5337.
Those who live in nursing homes assisted living facilities, and other types of resident care can depend on the Long-Term Care Ombudsman as a resource to handle any disputes that might come up. Assisted living residents should call (617) 727-7750, and those who have other long-term care arrangements can call (800) 243-4636.
Home care services
Many senior citizens want to remain at home (either in their own home or in the home of a relative) when they can no longer manage all their day-to-day tasks on their own. If you or your family member requires services such as personal care assistance, in-home nursing, or help with housekeeping and other tasks, an in-home caregiver can be helpful.
Elderly Massachusetts residents can benefit from in-home services arranged by a local elder service agency. The services included might include housekeeping, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and various types of personal care assistance, such as help with bathing and dressing.
There are income eligibility requirements and monthly copayments that are assessed on a sliding fee scale. Call (800) 243-4636 to learn more.
There is also the Home and Community Based Services Waiver that can help low-income families arrange for in-home care for their elderly relatives. Fill out the HCBS waiver request form to get the process started.
If you do not qualify for the subsidized in-home services, you can use the Eldercare Locator to find in-home care for your family member.
Respite care provides temporary relief for family caregivers. It might be for just a few hours or for a couple of days. During that time, the respite care provider oversees and administers all care for the loved one.
In Massachusetts, there are two statewide programs that can provide respite care as part of the state’s Family Caregiver Support Program:
The Department of Developmental Services manages the Massachusetts Lifespan Respite Program. You can call them at (978) 774-5000 x386.
Additionally, the Massachusetts State Respite Coalition can be reached at (617) 863-6244.
The National Respite Network and Resource Center offers an online respite care consumer guide for family members who need to arrange respite care for their relatives.
Adult day care
An adult day health program provides supervision, skilled services, social services, nursing care, therapies, meals, and other services to seniors who aren’t safe at home alone all day. In Massachusetts, adult day health care is usually covered by health insurance, including MassHealth (the state’s Medicaid system). Every adult day health care program is unique, but there are two main types of care that you might need to consider for your loved one.
Social adult day care is for those who need supervision and personal care assistance (such as assistance with toileting or getting dressed). It provides meals, social activities, and a variety of services, but it does not provide intensive nursing care.
Specialized adult day health care is for those who have more advanced health care needs. They might have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, or they might need physical care that goes beyond help with personal assistance and minor nursing care.
Search the Massachusetts Adult Day Services Association member directory, which represents 130 out of the 149 adult day health care centers in the state.
The Massachusetts Care Planning Council also maintains a list. There is a help form on the same page if you’d like additional assistance finding care.
You can also check with the local Elder Care Agency to find services as well as assistance with procuring the funds necessary to pay for adult day care.
Finally, the Eldercare Locator can help you access adult day care providers. Use the website or call (800) 677-1116.
Senior centers provide social activities and, usually, meals as well. They also provide information on transportation services, volunteer opportunities, educational programs, and more. In Massachusetts, senior centers are managed by the Councils on Aging. Contact the local Council on Aging office to find a senior center nearby. You can also call the main number at (413) 527-6425.
Hospice and palliative care
Hospice services provide comfort, counselling, and palliative care to patients with terminal illnesses. Hospice care also includes support for family members in the form of educational resources and counselling.
In most cases, hospice care is reserved for those who have six months or less to live, according to their diagnoses. The Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts offers a hospice search tool. They can also be reached at (781) 255-7077.
The National Hospice Locator is a national resource that can help family members find a hospice program for their relatives. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization also has a lot of available hospice options.
Hospice is usually paid for by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. For those who don’t have this type of coverage, there are grants and funds in place to help cover the costs. Talk to the hospice you choose about how to manage the cost of the services. They often have information on other ways to fund hospice care.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that leads to dementia and, ultimately, death. The Massachusetts Care Planning Council has a list of facilities specifically for seniors and caregivers looking for long-term care for dementia.
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and potential trials and treatments, the National Institute on Aging has a page at Alzheimers.gov. Their phone number is (877) 696-6775.
Finally, BrightFocus is a nonprofit organization that promotes education and research on Alzheimer’s disease.
Health care information
Massachusetts is home to 64 hospitals in addition to many other types of health care facilities, including assisted living facilities, nursing homes, physician’s offices, urgent care centers, and centers specializing in different types of diseases and conditions.
The AMA Doctor Finder is a nationwide search engine that includes information on office hours, educational history, licensing, and types of insurance accepted. Another tool, Physician Compare, can be used to find doctors participating in Medicare plans specifically.
Prescription Advantage is a prescription program for those over 65 (or under 65 with certain health conditions). It can either fill in gaps in prescription coverage or act as the primary insurer for those without coverage. The telephone number is (800) 243-4636.
If you do not have health insurance, a sliding fee health care center can see you for free or for a fee that you can afford. Search for one on the Find a Health Center website.
There is also a listing of dental centers in Massachusetts that will see uninsured patients on a sliding scale basis.
Health insurance can be a complex issue for seniors, particularly those who are used to employer-sponsored health insurance. If the insurance is discontinued or if they are turning 65, there are several options to consider.
Those who have Medicare or who are about to become eligible for Medicare can get free health insurance counselling through Serving the Health Information Needs of Everyone (SHINE). The telephone number is (800) 243-4636.
MassHealth is subsidized health insurance available to residents over 64 years old or who have a disability. Apply on the website or call (800) 841-2900.
Another option for health insurance is to apply through the federal health care Marketplace. There are subsidies available depending on the individual’s income. Go to healthcare.gov to learn more.
Senior nutrition and fitness
In addition to having access to good medical care, it’s important for senior citizens to stay active and eat nutritious foods. This can be a challenge for some individuals, so there are programs available to help seniors get the healthy food and fitness opportunities they need.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (sometimes colloquially called food stamps). It is available for low-income seniors, or those who spend a significant portion of their income on medical expenses. Call (866) 950-FOOD to apply.
The Nutrition Program for Seniors delivers meals to the elderly to be eaten either in congregate settings or in their homes. The program’s goal is to provide at least one meal per day to needy seniors. You can check eligibility on the NPS website and apply by calling (800) 243-4636.
Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that delivers meals to elderly adults in need. Find the nearest Massachusetts Meals on Wheels program to learn more.
Eligible seniors can also get vouchers to use at farmers’ markets through a program called the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Call the SFMNP at (602) 542-0379.
Fitness and recreation
Staying active can make a significant difference in the health and quality of life of seniors. Senior centers in many cities and towns provide fitness and recreation activities for the elderly. Many of these programs are free, while some have a nominal cost. Find the closest Massachusetts senior centers for more information.
SilverSneakers is a program that provides free gym memberships to seniors. Oasis takes a different approach to helping seniors stay active by matching them with volunteer opportunities, lifelong learning opportunities, and other engaging activities.
AARP, an interest group with the mission to help seniors live well after retirement, has a membership of nearly 38 million people. The nonprofit organization is non-partisan, and it has programs for people of all ages with an emphasis on retirees. Membership benefits include discounts on entertainment, restaurants, health services, shopping, and more. In addition, there are community events and travel opportunities.
There is also a reduced fee pass for national parks available to senior citizens for $10. Call the National Park Service at (518) 474-0456 for more information.
Medicare is health insurance that is given to all seniors over the age of 65 who have worked (or whose spouses have worked) for more than 10 years.
Medicare A is available for free and covers things like home health care, nursing home care, inpatient hospital care, and hospice. Medicare B is available for a sliding premium, depending on your income, and covers preventative care, medically necessary care, mental health services, ambulance services, and durable medical equipment. Medicare C is a private insurance option. There is also Medicare D, which covers prescriptions.
Individuals can start enrollment in Medicare three months before turning 65. Find out more at Medicare.gov. The telephone number is (800) 772-1213.
There is free health insurance counselling through SHINE for Massachusetts residents who are eligible for Medicare. You can talk to someone who will explain the different options. Call (800) 243-4636.
There are two soldiers’ homes in Massachusetts. One is in Chelsea, and the other is in Holyoke. Contact the local Veterans Service Officer to find out more about these homes. You can also contact the Department of Veterans’ Services at (617) 210-5480.
The Veterans Service Officer can also help veterans apply for Aid and Attendance, which is a federal program designed to help veterans pay for care.
Massachusetts also has a Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. If you or your family member is experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call the number 24 hours a day to speak with someone in English or Spanish.
Tax preparation assistance
Elderly residents of Massachusetts can have their tax returns filed for free. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and AARP Tax-Aide are two programs that work with low-and moderate-income senior citizens to file routine taxes.
There are also low-income tax clinics in Boston, Springfield, Waltham, and Jamaica Plain.
The Volunteer Lawyers Project of Boston provides free legal advice and services to eligible senior citizens. The telephone number is (617) 603-1700.
There is also a legal hotline for Massachusetts elders at the Attorney General’s Office. Call (888) 243-5337.
There are several options for getting senior transportation assistance in Massachusetts. All MBTA buses and some of the subway stations are accessible to those with mobility issues or disabilities. Call (617) 222-3200 for more information.
THE RIDE is a door-to-door program that provides limited rides for those who are unable to drive themselves. The service is available in 60 cities and towns in Massachusetts. Call (617) 337-2727 to find out if you are eligible for this service.
The local Elder Care Agencies might also have resources to help seniors find the transportation that they need.
Many seniors prefer to drive themselves as long as it is safe for them to do so. Massachusetts offers information about this topic as well as driving evaluations to help elderly individuals and their family members ensure they remain safe on the road.
In addition, there are some courses available that can reduce a senior’s risk of being in an accident and increase their defensive driving skills. One is offered by the private company AAA — not to be confused with the many Area Agency on Aging offices located around the country. There is also a nationally available AARP course for seniors who want to polish their behind-the-wheel skills.