Senior Resources in South Carolina
Finding senior care resources can be a major challenge for families because many new caregivers don’t know where to look for resources or even what resources they should be seeking out. Meanwhile many state and federally-operated programs, along with community and non-profit organizations, offer a wide assortment of resources for seniors. This guide covers South Carolina’s free senior resources, including financial assistance, legal services, nutrition and fitness support, caregiver help, insurance options, veterans benefits, and more.
South Carolina senior care options
Home care services
Completing daily activities can be a challenge for many elderly individuals as they age. However, many seniors prefer to remain in their current home rather than move into a care facility. Home-based care can be a great option that creates minimal disruption to a senior’s life. South Carolina residents may use any of the state’s free resources to learn more about home care services, as well as to locate quality care providers in their community.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is a federally-operated resource for seniors in all 50 states. The organization aims to make home-based care more accessible to seniors so they may “age-in-place,” thereby avoiding institutionalization. Nursing homes are running out of vacancies and the ACL wants to make home-based care more popular to combat the problem. They operate numerous programs throughout the country to assist seniors with aging-in-place, and they regularly invest in new programs to extend their services.
The National Age In Place Council (NAPC)
Seniors and caregivers may find the National Age in Place Council (NAPC) helpful, thanks to the organization’s free resources. The organization’s website features a useful template for seniors, allowing them to easily create a long-term care plan. Seniors can also access various informational guides, which aim to educate seniors about their options for home-based care.
Companion services for seniors are accessible throughout South Carolina, but the state’s government does not sponsor a statewide resource for them. Instead, many small companion services operate within South Carolina’s communities. Families can locate companions within their South Carolina community by searching for them with the SC Access tool online, or by calling their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Many of the companion services listed are free, however, others may require a small fee for their assistance.
Seniors centers are located throughout South Carolina to serve residents in various ways. The locations, which are administered and created by the Lieutenant Governor's Office on Aging (LGOA), offer many services, including group meals, arts programs, fitness programs, employment assistance, and public benefits counseling. The senior centers are intended to serve as multi-purpose “village squares” where South Carolina residents can gather in their community. All services are free and anyone over the age of 65 is eligible to receive them.
Respite care services
Family caregivers are often a vital part of life for many seniors, but everyone needs time for running errands, managing personal matters, and taking breaks. Many caregivers don’t know where to begin finding temporary help. Fortunately, many organizations exist to help caregivers find respite services in their communities.
South Carolina Respite Coalition (SCRC)
The South Carolina Respite Coalition (SCRC) is a major advocate for family caregivers living in the area. The organization helps families find local respite care and educating caregivers about the importance of self-care and taking temporary breaks. All of the SCRC’s resources are free, as the program is a nonprofit organization and functions solely on donations.
ARCH Resource Center
The ARCH Resource Center is another useful tool for caregivers who need help finding respite services. Caregivers can use ARCH to find service providers in their area, or they may use the program’s helpful sources of information to learn more about respite care and the importance of taking breaks. Family caregivers should visit ARCH’s website to access their free resources and learn more about their organization.
Educated caregivers are the backbone of quality senior care. But caring for a family member without support can take a heavy toll. Fortunately, there are many easily-accessible resources for family caregivers in South Carolina, including free classes and counseling.
Family and Caregiver Support Program (FCSP)
According to the LGOA, over 770,000 South Carolinians provide unpaid caregiving services to family members and loved ones. The Family and Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) serves these caregivers, offering free classes, counseling, and respite assistance to eligible persons throughout the state. Adults caring for someone over the age of 65 or with Alzheimer's disease (regardless of age) may qualify as an eligible caregiver. Many of the FCSP’s services are free, however only qualifying caregivers may access them.
Caregiver Action Network
Caregivers may also use the Caregiver Action Network (CAN) to ask questions or receive support. The CAN’s website features a community forum where caregivers may discuss their concerns or assist others, and a Family Caregiver Toolbox — an assortment of helpful caregiving guides and informational articles.
National Alliance of Caregiving
The National Alliance of Caregiving also offers valuable information for caregivers. Their comprehensive collection of free resources cover a range of topics about caregiving and are accessible to anyone nationwide.
The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross offers resources for caregivers, including courses in first aid and CPR. Each of the Red Cross’s courses can be administered online or in-person, making them accessible everywhere in the country. Family caregivers who want to learn more about free courses from the Red Cross should contact their local chapter to learn about upcoming dates for classes.
Hospice and palliative care
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) offers free resources to U.S. citizens who are nearing the end of their life. Some people receive free or low-cost hospice care through the organization, and others receive free counseling services. The organization also offers free online classes, informational webinars, and dozens of in-depth educational articles about hospice and palliative care.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
Since its inception, the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) has greatly assisted families impacted by Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Today, it serves as the leading nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease. The association is widely known for their research into Alzheimer’s causes and cures, however, they also provide direct services to families in need.
Anyone who is impacted by Alzheimer’s may use the AA’s resources. Their 24-hour helpline — accessible at 1(800) 272-3900 — is a popular source of information for caregivers, where they may call to receive assistance with their questions. Additionally, caregivers may receive free over-the-phone counseling by calling the AA’s helpline. The AA also offers adult day care services to anyone impacted by dementia. Caregivers can visit the AA’s website to learn which of the organization’s services are available near them, or they may call their local chapter of the AA for more information.
Medicare can be confusing, and it’s important for beneficiaries to be informed. Seniors who have questions about their Medicare plan can participate in South Carolina’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to get answers. SHIP offers free Medicare counseling designed to help seniors better understand their coverage.
SHIP counseling is free to anyone in South Carolina who qualifies for Medicare. Seniors may speak to a SHIP counselor by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Alternatively, GetCareSC offers an “ABC’s of Medicare” overview on their website, which walks seniors through the basics of Medicare coverage, eligibility, and enrollment.
National care resources
Many senior care resources are administered on a state level, however, others are operated nationally. These resources are not only available to South Carolina residents, but to residents of all 50 states.
Perhaps the most well-known resource for seniors, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers various benefits to adults over 55. Many of AARP’s benefits are member-exclusive, however, their online informational articles are accessible to anyone in the U.S. for free.
A person does not have to be retired to become a member of AARP. The program is open to all American adults over the age of 55, regardless of their working status. Membership is not free and does come with an annual fee. However, members receive exclusive benefits (like free health care services and discounts at certain stores and restaurants) which non-members may not access.
The Eldercare Locator allows seniors to search for care providers in their community. Because the tool is a database of care providers in all fifty states, seniors anywhere in the country may use it to find help in their community. The Eldercare Locator is free and is accessible to anyone who needs it.
Nutrition and wellness
As seniors age, their nutritional needs change. Additionally, it may become challenging for them to meet their daily nutritional requirements if they experience difficulty preparing meals. Fortunately, seniors in South Carolina have access to numerous programs designed to help educate them about their changing needs and help meet them.
The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA)
The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA) is a popular resource for seniors and caregivers learning about geriatric nutrition. Meals on Wheels sponsors the program to educate seniors about their changing nutritional needs. The NRCNA’s resources include educational nutrition programs, caregiver classes, and free sources of information to educate seniors and their families.
Group Dining Sites
Each local AAA in South Carolina sponsors a group dining site for their region. The dining sites provide free, nutritious meals to seniors who need them, and the meals serve as valuable times to socialize. Most locations offer one free meal per day, and everyone is eligible (provided they are over 65 years old).
Community-based nutrition programs
Additionally, many other community-based nutrition programs are available in South Carolina. Most counties offer their own health and wellness programs, which are operated by various local entities. Using the SC Access tool, seniors may search by county or zip code to find programs near them.
Fitness and recreation
The Center for Healthy Aging (CHA) offers various programs for seniors to help them socialize and get moving. Each program is community-based and targets a specific area of fitness. These programs include:
- Active Choices
- Active Living Every Day
- Fit & 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 may call the CHA at (571) 527-3900 for more information.
The CHA sponsors nationwide fitness programs, but many counties in South Carolina offer local alternatives as well. Residents should get in touch with their county’s Recreation and Aging Commission to learn more about community options near them.
Each year, more than 55 million people receive health care coverage through Medicare. Medicare qualifies as a public health insurance program, but it is not free to enroll. Beneficiaries are typically responsible for a monthly premium, copays, and deductible associated with their policy. A person’s financial responsibility depends entirely on the plan they choose and the extent of their medical needs. Medicare’s plans include:
Medicare Part A
Hospital insurance is available to all eligible seniors in the U.S. 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
This policy operate more like private 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 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 called, 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.
Seniors with Medicare are not automatically ineligible to receive Medicaid benefits. Medicare beneficiaries who need help paying their premiums, copayments, and deductibles may use Medicaid to fill in the gaps. To qualify for Medicaid, seniors must have financial barriers preventing them from paying their medical bills, and they must clinically require the services they want covered.
A person does not need to be enrolled in Medicare to receive Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is available to anyone who meets the program’s financial requirements. However, some benefits are tailored to seniors and dually-eligible individuals. To learn more about Medicaid, what it covers, and its eligibility requirements, call South Carolina’s main Medicaid office at (888) 549-0820.
Veterans in South Carolina may be eligible to receive certain free and low-cost benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Which resources a person is eligible to receive depends on when they served in the military, their disability status, and in some case, their finances.
Aid and Attendance
The VA distributes pensions each month to qualifying veterans to help them meet their financial needs. Veterans who require assistance with activities of daily living (such as eating, bathing, dressing, or maintaining personal hygiene) may receive additional pension funds to compensate for the cost of their care. These additional funds are administered through the VA’s Aid and Attendance (A&A) program, which exists to help disabled veterans in need.
Veterans who reside in nursing homes automatically qualify to receive A&A benefits if they already receive the VA’s monthly pension. Additionally, bedridden and blind veterans also qualify for A&A. Seniors and caregivers who want to learn more about A&A should visit the VA’s informational Aid & Attendance page, which offers more information about the program.
VA Health Care Programs
The Standard Medical Benefits package is available to all elderly veterans who were discharged for any reason other than “dishonorable.” All benefits applicants must undergo an assessment for the VA to decide the amount of their copay. Low-income veterans and veterans suffering from service-related disabilities may have their copays waived for health and long-term care services.
Anyone enrolled in the Standard Medical Benefits package is eligible to receive coverage for home and community-based services through the VA. However, the person must have a clinical need for the services for their policy to pay for them. Eligible services include adult day care, respite care, and home health care, among others. Veterans with a service-related injury may receive prioritized coverage of their long-term care, depending on the level of their disability.
Families should note that the VA will not cover a person’s room and board for a nursing facility or residential home, regardless of their veteran or disability status. A person may use their Medical Benefits package to pay for additional long-term care services they need, but any services included as part of the person’s room and board may not be covered. Veterans should contact their VA caseworkers to learn more about which VA-sponsored health care options are available to them, and which services will be covered if they enroll in a plan.
Legal assistance for seniors
Seniors may access a wide range of legal services for little-to-no cost through the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging (LGOA). The LGOA offers funding to families and partners with legal entities to create a network of advocacy for South Carolinians in need.
Volunteer lawyers are available to many seniors in South Carolina, thanks to a longstanding partnership between the LGOA and the SC Bar Association. Various attorneys throughout the state assist seniors through clinics on wills, education programs, and “Ask a Lawyer” sessions.
Families who want to learn more about pro-bono legal service in their community should contact the SC Bar Association for more information.
Senior Citizen’s Handbook
The South Carolina Senior Citizen's Handbook: A Guide to Laws and Programs Affecting Senior Citizens is a popular source of information for older South Carolinians facing legal concerns. In 2012, the SC Bar Association published the handbook as a free resource for seniors who need legal assistance. The guide is available on the LGOA website.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
When a senior believes their long-term care provider is violating their rights, they may contact the LGOA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s (LTCO) office for legal assistance. Each year, the LTCO investigates roughly 8,000 complaints from long-term care residents, making them the largest advocate against elder abuse in South Carolina.
South Carolinians who suspect elder abuse (either toward themselves or a family member) may call 1 (800) 868-9095 to reach the main LTCO office. There is no charge for services and they are available to all long-term care residents statewide.
South Carolina does not offer statewide transportation assistance for residents, but many communities have local programs offering free and low-cost rides to seniors. The GetCareSC search engine is a free, state-sponsored resource to help South Carolinians locate service providers in their area. Seniors and caregivers can use GetCareSC to locate community-based services, including transportation assistance programs, near them.
Individuals who want to speak to someone directly may call their community’s AAA Office to learn about local transportation services. GetCareSC’s website has an AAA office directory (listed by county), including each location’s contact information, address, email, and phone number. Alternatively, families may enter their zip code into the website’s search tool to find AAA Offices near them.
Additionally, many public transit programs in South Carolina offer discounted rates to seniors. Each community’s program determines its own rates, so seniors should contact their regional transport authority for more information. Seniors can find their regional transit authority via the American Public Transportation Association, which lists each transportation administration in South Carolina by county.
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.