Virginia Community Resources for Seniors
Families just beginning the transition to long-term senior care are often unsure where to look for senior resources in the community for elderly individuals and their caregivers. This guide covers Virginia senior care services, senior housing, transportation, government benefit resources, assistance with taxes and legal matters, national resources, and much more.
Virginia senior care options
As a person ages, they usually need some assistance with daily tasks. Some elderly individuals need in-home care, while others require the services provided by an assisted living facility or nursing home. Whether you are a senior citizen yourself or you are helping a family member navigate the many options available, here are some of the resources to consider.
There are Area Agencies on Aging located all across the state of Virginia in 25 service areas. They can help provide information and, in some cases, services for the elderly.
Anyone in Virginia can call 211 to learn more about local Virginia resources in their area.
The local Area Agencies on Aging also have some legal services and help available. Contact the one in the nearest county to find out what is available.
For senior citizens who live in long-term care facilities, the long-term care ombudsman is a good resource for settling disputes and concerns. Call (800) 552-3402 and ask to speak with the ombudsman.
Home care services
If your family member prefers to live in their own home or in the home of a relative as they age, they might benefit from home care services. This is when a professional caregiver comes to the home. The assistance needed might be nursing (changing dressings, injecting insulin), personal care (showering, dressing, shaving), and/or household tasks (grocery shopping, simple housekeeping).
The Virginia Office for Aging Services has information Virginia home-based care. You can also call them at (800) 552-3402.
The local Area Agency on Aging is another good resource to find home care services. Find the appropriate county and consult the chart on this page to find the Area Agency on Aging in your area.
Respite care services
When an elderly individual lives in the home of a family member, respite care services are sometimes needed. This is when another person or agency provides care to the senior citizen so the regular caregiver can attend to other matters or simply take a break.
The local Area Agencies on Aging provide a respite program for people caring for family members with Alzheimer’s disease and similar disorders. Find the Virginia Area Agency on Aging in your area and contact them for more information.
Adult day care
Adult day care is a service that provides regular care and supervision to elderly or disabled adults while their caregivers go to work or take care of their own needs. A variety of services are included, depending on the facility.
The Virginia Department of Social Services maintains a searchable list of adult day care facilities. You can search by county, then see whether a particular facility has had complaints and violations. Inspection forms are also available.
Senior centers are places where senior citizens can get together for a variety of programs. They might eat meals together, go on day trips, take classes, learn about various topics of interest, get information about volunteer opportunities, take advantage of transportation offered, and much more. Each senior center in Virginia has different offerings, but they all are meant to be places to support the aging members of their communities. Some programs have a cost, but many services are free.
The Virginia Care Planning Council has a list of the senior centers available in each county.
Sometimes, an elderly individual needs more care than can be provided at home. Those who need only some help with daily activities might choose an assisted living facility, while those who need specialized nursing care might need to go into a nursing home.
According to Genworth Financial, an insurance company that specializes in long-term care insurance, the median monthly cost for assisted living care in Virginia is $4,508. For nursing home care, the median monthly cost is $7,148 for a shared room or $7,908 for a private room. Understandably, many families are concerned about how they will pay for this type of care.
Medicaid and Medicaid waivers can be used to pay for long-term care in some cases. Virginia offers a list of waivers and programs that might be able to help pay for long-term care. The Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus (CCC+) waiver covers a lot of the senior care required. Call 1(800) 552-8627 for more information.
Hospice services and palliative care
Hospice services are focused on providing comfort and end-of-life care. Hospice services provided can include palliative care (treatments to alleviate symptoms and promote comfort), emotional support and counseling, social services, and compassionate support for family members and caregivers. When a person enters hospice care, it means that while they are treating symptoms to make them more comfortable, they are no longer treating the condition in an effort to prolong life.
The Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care provides education and advocacy for anyone who needs hospice services or who simply wants to know more about end-of-life care. The organization will work with each patient and family to determine how the services will be funded. Most people have their care paid for by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. If your family member does not have this type of coverage, there are grants and programs available to assist with payment.
You can search for a hospice program on the VAHPC website. Their telephone number is (804) 740-1344. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Association is another source that can help you find a hospice program in your area.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
The Virginia Office for Disability Programs has a list of resources and information for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members. You can call the office at (804) 662-9154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alzheimer’s Association is another good resource for help. Find your local chapter on the Virginia page or call (800) 272-3900.
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease, the National Institute on Aging has a page at Alzheimers.gov. There is also information for those who would like to join a clinical trial. Their phone number is (877) 696-6775.
BrightFocus is an organization that promotes education and research on Alzheimer’s disease and two common causes of vision loss (macular degeneration and glaucoma). Their goal is to end brain and eye diseases.
As health needs change frequently during the senior years, there are programs and resources available to those who have changing medical or care needs. Some of these are Virginia-specific, while others are available to people in every state.
Health care information
Virginia is home to 87 hospitals and hundreds more assisted living communities, nursing homes, medical centers, and other health facilities.
Those who would like to know where and when their doctor was licensed (whether providers have had any disciplinary actions taken and other information) can do so on the Virginia Board of Medicine search page.
Look up hospitals, hospice providers, long-term care facilities, and other types of facilities on the Department of Health Facility Directory.
Nationally, the AMA Doctor Finder provides information including office hours, educational history, licensing, and types of insurance accepted. For patients who have Medicare, Physician Compare is a tool that can be used to find doctors participating in their plans.
If someone in Virginia needs dental work and does not have insurance or the funds to pay for it, the Virginia Dental Association might be able to refer you to a clinic or provider who can help through the Donated Dental Services program. Call them at (804) 264-9010.
The Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using science to improve the experience of aging. The organization has free information available about a variety of topics regarding senior health.
Choosing a health insurance solution can be difficult, and Virginia has a program for Medicare-eligible senior citizens who need help understanding their options. The Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (VICAP) is free and confidential. The telephone number is (800) 552-3402.
Another option for health insurance is to apply through the Healthcare Marketplace. Go to Healthcare.gov to learn more about when enrollment is and whether you or your family member qualifies for a subsidy.
Nutrition and fitness
In addition to health services, there are also wellness services that include nutrition, fitness, and recreation for senior citizens in Virginia. It is important to be aware of the resources available that support overall physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness.
For senior citizens who have trouble getting enough of the right foods to eat, the local Area Agencies on Aging have programs that can help. One is a congregate nutrition program, which is when meals are served in a group setting to promote socialization and reduce hunger and food insecurity. The telephone number for more information is (804) 662-9319.
For people who cannot leave their homes to attend group meals, there is also a program that delivers food to the home. The local Area Agency on Aging will have more information.
Virginia’s Farm Market Fresh program helps low-income seniors pay for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets in the state. To learn more, call (804) 662-9319.
Meals on Wheels is a national nonprofit organization that delivers meals to elderly people in need. To find out more, call (888) 998-6325.
Fitness and recreation
The senior centers in Virginia offer a variety of fitness and recreation opportunities for aging residents. Staying physically active is an important part of staying healthy; exercise contributes not only to physical health but also to mental health.
Oasis helps seniors by matching them with volunteer opportunities, lifelong learning opportunities, and other engaging activities to help them stay physically and mentally active.
AARP has a membership of nearly 38 million people and is an interest group that focuses on helping seniors live well after retirement. It’s nonprofit and 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 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.
Government benefit programs
There are several federal benefit programs that are available to all senior citizens. Although they are U.S. programs, Virginia residents can often receive help applying through the state.
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.
Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (VICAP) helps seniors choose the right Medicare programs and complete enrollment. Find out more by calling the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services at (800) 552-5019.
Low-income Virginia residents might be eligible for Medicaid, a program that provides low-cost or free health services to those in need. CommonHelp is a place where seniors can apply for Medicaid. The local Area Agency on Aging is another resource that can provide information and assistance.
Medicaid waivers can help people in Virginia pay for long-term care, such as an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Contact the Area Agency on Aging in your county or city to learn more.
There are two veterans homes in Virginia. The Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center is located in Richmond, and the Virginia Veterans Care Center is located in Roanoke. These are homes for veterans and their eligible spouses who need nursing care. In 2019, two more homes are slated to open; one will be in Fauquier County and the other will be in Virginia Beach.
There are dozens of Departments of Veterans Services across the state of Virginia to help seniors apply for and receive benefits for long-term senior care.
Virginia also has a crisis hotline for veterans who need urgent help. The telephone number is (800) 273-8255.
Aid and Attendance is a federal program that can help veterans. Apply or find out more information at the local Department of Veterans Services office.
Financial and tax assistance
Filing income taxes can be a particularly complex task for seniors. Income changes together with multiple benefits sources and other financial complications can make tax filing after retirement a new challenge. Those over the age of 60 (or anyone making less than $54,000 in 2017) can have their taxes prepared for free through VITA or TCE. Find more information, go to the IRS website and scroll down to the blue buttons.
AARP also offers free tax assistance to those with low to moderate incomes who are over the age of 50. Call 1 (888) AARP-NOW to find a location in the nearest participating city.
Seniors who need help paying their utility bills should look into the Low Income Energy Programs. Call 800-230-6977 to find out more.
The National Council on Aging provides resources for seniors who need help with health insurance, economic issues, or basic needs such as rent, food, and medicine.
Virginia has a Statewide Senior Legal Helpline that can assist with matters such as public benefits, long-term care, abuse and neglect, consumer issues, etc. Call (844) 802-5910 to find out more.
Anyone in Virginia with low income can get legal aid by calling (866) 534-5243. There is also a web-based program for legal assistance in Virginia that can answer questions and make referrals.
Transportation often becomes an issue during the senior years as many elderly individuals stop driving and find it difficult to find rides to doctor’s appointments, shopping, and other places that they need to go. There are other individuals who choose to continue driving but might be at an increased risk of being in an accident due to physical changes that occur as part of the aging process, such as slowed reflexes and less sharp vision.
In Virginia, there are several ways that individuals can get transportation services. If the person has Medicaid or CCC+, they are eligible for non-emergency medical transportation. This service transports individuals to doctors appointments and day facilities at no cost. There are different phone numbers depending on the name of the medical insurance plan. You can find the right number for your plan on the Virginia non-emergency transportation services list.
Some locations in Virginia have public transportation. Seniors who are living in poverty, who live alone, or who have certain disabilities might be eligible for free or reduced-fare rides. The local Area Agency on Aging will have more information about what is available in each area. Call (800) 677-1116.
For those who prefer to continue driving, there is a nationally available AARP course on driving safety for seniors. Call the AARP at 1 (888) 227-7669 for more information.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles also has a Mature Driver Safety page, which has several resources for elderly drivers.
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.