Finding and accessing the right health care resources can be challenging for seniors. There are so many private and public programs available both nationally and locally many caregivers and elderly individuals don’t know where to start. This guide will take you through the many programs in Tennessee designed so elderly residents and their caregivers can find the right care, get moving, meet other seniors, and even receive legal advice.
Tennessee senior care options
Home care services
Seniors in Tennessee may participate in OPTIONS for Community Living to receive free or low-cost in-home care services provided by the state-funded program. Residents of Tennessee can learn more about the OPTIONS for Community Living program in their area by contacting their local Area Agency on Disability and Aging, the state department that operates the program.
Tennessee residents who are over the age of 65 and who require assistance with their activities of daily living (ADL) may qualify to receive in-home care services such as personal care, home-delivered meals, and housekeeping services through OPTIONS for Community Living. Services provided through OPTIONS for Community Living are paid for by the state and come at no cost to the beneficiary. To learn more about the availability of benefits through OPTIONS for Community Living, visit the OPTIONS program website or call the statewide telephone line at 1 (866) 836-6678.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is a federal organization that serves seniors and disabled adults in all 50 states. The number of people seeking senior care increases each year; meanwhile, many care facilities run low on vacancies. The ACL was launched to make it easier for elderly individuals to “age in place.” They advocate, invest in research, and build programs to assist families in caring for family members at home.
The National Aging In Place Council (NAPC) is another reliable source for information on home-based care. The NAPC’s website boasts a planning template tool designed to help seniors create an individual long-term care plan. By offering free information about aging in place and home-based care, the NAPC aims to educate seniors on all their options for receiving care while remaining independent as they age.
The Tennessee Respite Coalition sponsors a companionship program for seniors across the state who require assistance meeting their daily needs. Seniors who cannot complete their ADLs (activities of daily living) without assistance may qualify to receive companionship services through the TRC for free or at a low cost, depending on their medical needs and their finances. Each companion works on a volunteer basis and aims to enrich the lives of those they care for through their care methods. To learn more about the companionship program, visit the TRC’s website.
The Tennessee Commission on Aging & Disability offers a free locator tool on its website to help seniors locate senior centers in their community. By using the Find a Senior Center tool, Tennessee residents can locate a facility near them and determine which location will best serve their needs.
Respite care services
Caregivers in Tennessee may seek relief from their duties by contacting the Tennessee Respite Coalition to learn more about their options. The TRC aims to help caregivers by connecting them with respite services and by educating them on the importance of taking temporary breaks from caregiving to care for themselves. All of the TRC’s resources are free to caregivers, as the program is funded by donations and operates as a non-profit organization.
The TRC sponsors a voucher program to help families pay for respite care, and any Tennessee caregiver is eligible to apply. Additionally, the TRC offers a senior companion program to Tennessee residents. The companion program allows primary caregivers to take time for themselves while a friend or family member continues to receive the care they need. Each companion works on a volunteer basis and is trained to offer rich social interaction and support to the people they are hired to assist. To learn more about the TRC and the services they offer, call the program’s hotline at 1 (888) 579-3754.
Many seniors receive long-term care from a friend or family member instead of a paid nurse or assistant. All caregivers need breaks to recharge and tend to their own lives; unfortunately, very few caregivers actually consider respite care. But for families who’ve learned the importance of balance and respite care can be a vital part of their caregiving strategy. Seniors and caregivers who have questions or concerns about respite care can learn more using the ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help) National Respite Network and Resource Center to learn more about their options.
The ARCH Resource Center allows seniors and their caregivers to locate respite care services in their community. To learn more about how the ARCH Resource center works in cooperation with the National Respite Coalition (NRC) and the Lifespan Respite Technical Assistance Center (LRTAC) to make respite care services more easily accessible to seniors and caregivers, visit the ARCH website.
Tennessee offers its own state-sponsored caregiver alliance for unpaid caregivers; however, the National Caregiving Support Program (NCSP) works together with Tennessee’s Area Agencies on Disability and Aging (AADA) to bring support and resources to unpaid caregivers across the state in addition to the state’s own programs. Anyone who is caring for an elderly person over the age of 55 or a disabled individual under the age of 18 may qualify to receive assistance through the NCSP. Caregivers may access counselling services, caregiver training, and respite care through the NCSP in coordination with their local AADA. To learn more, locate your community AADA and contact their office directly.
Additionally, the Family Caregiver Support Program brings educational resources and practical assistance to unpaid caregivers in Tennessee. By participating in the program, caregivers can access support groups, receive free or low-cost training, and receive counselling services. The program may also pay for durable medical equipment, home-delivered meals, or minor home modifications, depending on the person’s financial and medical needs.
Caregivers in all fifty states can learn more about caregiving for free, thanks to the online resources at the Caregiver Action Network. In addition to community forums where caregivers can discuss their questions and concerns, CAN’s website also offers a free family caregiver toolbox — A collection of information about caregiving.
Caregivers may also find the National Alliance of Caregiving helpful. The NAC was founded in 1996 to help caregivers learn more about the role they play in their loved one’s life. Caregivers can use the NAC’s comprehensive collection of information to learn about a wide range of caregiving topics.
Finally, caregivers might also want to take a look at the many resources available from the American Red Cross site, including real CPR and first aid courses (offered both online and in traditional classrooms). Caregivers who want to take a course with the Red Cross should contact their local chapter to learn about upcoming dates.
Hospice and palliative care
Residents of Tennessee can receive assistance finding and pay for hospice services and palliative care from the Tennessee Hospice Organization. The THO aims to make hospice services and palliative care more accessible to seniors and adults who are nearing the end of their life by participating in advocacy efforts and by offering educational materials for families. Through their efforts, the THO hopes to bring quality end-of-life care to Tennessee residents statewide.
To learn more about the program, visit the THO website or contact their office at (615) 401-7469.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) offers free resources for United States citizens who are nearing the end of their life. Seniors in all 50 states can access the NHPCO’s resources as members of the organization. The NHPCO was founded in 1978, and thousands of people have received free or low-cost hospice services and palliative care through the organization’s programs. Additionally, members of the organization can access online courses, webinars, and a collection of in-depth articles on hospice and palliative care.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) is the nation’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. They conduct research on potential new treatments and provide information to caregivers, family members, and friends who want to learn more about the disease. Anyone who is impacted by dementia may benefit from the AA’s resources, which are funded by donations. Their services are always free or low-cost.
Alzheimer’s Tennessee is a non-profit organization offering free resources to state residents living with dementia, as well as resources for caregivers who assist those impacted by the disease. Caregivers can receive free or low-cost training through Alzheimer’s Tennessee, and seniors may access low-cost adult day care services which are tailored to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s Tennessee also offers informational articles for caregivers in the community and sponsors clinical trials to learn more about these diseases.
Residents may learn more about Alzheimer’s Tennessee on the program’s website, which features extensive information about its mission and the actions they take to assist its community. Residents may also contact their local Alzheimer’s Tennessee office to learn more about the program.
The Tennessee State Health Insurance Assistance Program (TNSHIP) is a free resource for seniors seeking information about Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurance options available. Residents of Tennessee receive individualized assistance with their health insurance to ensure they are receiving the best benefits for the lowest possible cost. Uninsured residents can contact TNSHIP to learn more about health care providers in the state and can receive recommendations and direction to quality health care providers who may best cover their needs.
National care resources
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a popular resource for seniors and older adults. Many resources are available for free through AARP, while others are only accessible by purchasing a membership to the organization. Anyone over the age of 55 may sign up as a member of AARP, whether they are retired or working. As of 2018, over 38 million people are members of the organization.
Members of AARP are entitled to numerous benefits, including discounted or free health care services and discounts at some 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 another resource popular among 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 may locate nursing homes, in-home care providers, or assisted living facilities near them using the tool. Additionally, they may call their toll-free phone line to inquire about eldercare services in their community.
Nutrition and wellness
The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD) operates several programs that bring nutritious meals to seniors for no or low-cost. The first program brings home-delivered meals to seniors who are incapable of leaving their homes or preparing their meals independently. Those who qualify to receive meals through Tennessee’s home-delivered meals program may receive one nutritionally balanced meal per day, as well as brief socialization when the attendant delivers the meal.
The TCAD also offers congregate meals for seniors, served Mondays through Fridays at senior centers, schools, and churches throughout communities. Any seniors over the age of 60 are eligible to attend the congregate meals at no cost, and their spouses are welcome as well.
Seniors in Tennessee can also access nutritional screenings through TCAD. The screenings are intended to make it easier for seniors to help seniors meet their changing nutritional needs, fostering overall health and wellness.
The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA) offers informational resources to seniors who wish to learn more about their nutritional needs as they age. The NRCNA is sponsored by Meals On Wheels, who established the resource center as a means to educate seniors and their caregivers about senior nutrition. The NRCNA offers caregiving classes, informational nutrition programs, and dozens of free informational articles aimed at improving senior wellness and educating caregivers.
Fitness and recreation
Seniors who wish to participate in recreational programs to promote wellness and improve their health might consider one of the programs offered by the Center for Healthy Aging. The organization was created by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to help seniors access health and wellness resources. Some of the programs sponsored by the Center for Healthy Aging include:
- Active Choices
- Active Living Every day
- Fit and Strong
- Healthy Moves for Aging Well
- Walk With Ease
Each program focuses on a particular area of physical wellness. For example, Walk With Ease focuses on exercises to promote mobility, while Fit and Strong helps seniors participate in strength-building exercises. Every program at the Center for Health Aging is designed to protect and improve their physical fitness and promote social activity too.
Government benefit programs
Seniors in Tennessee may access state-funded health care through the CHOICES program if they meet the program’s eligibility requirements. The CHOICES program is Tennessee’s Medicaid coverage program for seniors over the age of 65. Participants receive coverage for medical care in addition to long-term care and support. Those who are approved for coverage enter into one of three different CHOICES plans.
CHOICES Group 1
The Group 1 plan is for individuals of any age who require an institutional level of skilled nursing care to provide for their needs. Those in Group 1 may choose to receive their care in a nursing home.
CHOICES Group 2
The Group 2 plan is for seniors over the age of 65 who require an institutional level of skilled nursing care but choose to receive their services in a home or community-based setting as opposed to a nursing facility.
CHOICES Group 3
The Group 3 plan is for seniors who do not require an institutional level of skilled nursing care but who require some level of assistance to live safely in a home environment. Group 3 is for seniors who are not entirely independent but who do not require an extensive level of care to meet their daily needs.
Those participating in CHOICES may receive coverage for a wide range of care services, including personal care, respite services, adult day care, home-delivered meals, companion care, and community living support.
More than 55 million Americans own a Medicare policy that pays for some of their health care services. Medicare is not free — many participants pay a monthly premium for coverage — but low-income seniors may be able to avoid paying premiums depending on their Medicaid eligibility and the Medicare plan they choose. The Medicare plans available to seniors and disabled adults include:
- Medicare Part A 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 policyholders are subject to copayments and deductibles, but many do not pay premiums for their coverage.
- Medicare Part B 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 is known as “Medicare Advantage,” which 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 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.
Medicare can considerably reduce the cost of healthcare for seniors; however, it can be challenging for some seniors to pay their copayments, premiums, and deductibles. Low-income seniors may qualify to receive Medicaid, which can offset costs associated with Medicare. Additionally, Medicaid covers many additional health care services which are not typically paid for by Medicare.
To receive Medicaid, a person must meet the program’s qualifications. The eligibility requirements are determined by the types of healthcare services an applicant is requesting. For example, a person requesting coverage for long-term care would need to prove their financial inability to pay for their care, and they would need to demonstrate a need for a nursing home level of care to receive benefits.
The federal government also provides health benefits for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Seniors may participate in one or more of these government benefit programs to make health care more easily accessible to them as they age.
Finally, seniors who served on active duty for the United States Armed Forces may qualify to receive health care coverage through the VA. Seniors who were injured on active duty and who suffer from a disability as a result of their injury may receive health care coverage if their injury qualifies and they served during an applicable service period. To learn more about qualifying for VA health coverage, contact a local VA office to speak with a caseworker or visit the VA’s website.
Legal assistance for seniors
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program does not offer direct legal assistance for seniors but can offer helpful information to protect seniors from situations which may require legal action. Additionally, they provide some direction to help seniors who require legal assistance find the right legal team. Seniors who are experiencing trouble with their caretaking services may reach out to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office, which may be able to solve the need for legal services entirely. To learn more about how the Long-Term Care Ombudsman can help seniors in need, locate a community Ombudsman’s office and contact them directly for more information.
The Tennessee Council on Aging (TCA) and the Senior Transportation Leadership Coalition created the Senior Ride Nashville program to help seniors navigate to and from medical appointments and other errands, regardless of their ability to drive. The ride program operates as a non-profit organization and serves all seniors in the Nashville area. Access to the program began in 2017 and is expected to expand throughout the next few years. Senior transportation is identified as one of the greatest problems for seniors by the TCA, and the council wishes to resolve the issue by providing more transportation options to seniors throughout the state.
While AA is a national organization, many communities have their own local branch where seniors, caregivers, and family members can go for information. Use the organization’s locator tool to find a local Alzheimer’s Association office near you.