Resources and Help for Seniors
Last updated November 2018
Many older adults need help with tasks ranging from transportation to medical appointments and doing laundry to medication management and meal prep. It’s an elaborate dance that you might want a home-health aide or other hired helper to coordinate. These are also tasks many elder villages can help with.
Of course Checkbook is a great way to find reliable help. We have ratings on topics ranging from doctors to handyman services to housecleaners to gutter cleaners. We also offer ratings of home health agencies.
A directory assembled by the U.S. Administration on Aging lists home health agencies, resources for financial assistance, elder abuse prevention, legal help, and much more.
It’s also a smart idea to contact both local and national aging councils to learn about programs they offer. They can tell you whether you or a relative might be eligible for government benefits or assistance, and can usually hook you up with information on meal delivery, senior centers, and low-cost in-home assistance, and help you navigate Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs.
Aging councils and agencies for the Chicago area include:
- The National Council on Aging is a clearinghouse for information on topics and programs covering economic security and healthy living. 571-527-3900
- City of Chicago Area Senior Services Agency on Aging, social programs, homebound services, aging in place assistance, senior centers, insurance counseling. 1615 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL, 312-743-0300
- Northeastern Illinois Agency on Aging (DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties), social programs, homebound services, aging in place assistance, senior centers, insurance counseling. P.O. Box 809, Kankakee, IL, 800-528-2000
- AgeOptions (suburban Cook County), service referrals, caregiver support, Medicare advice, and more. 1048 Lake Street, Suite 300, Oak Park, IL, 708-383-0258
- Village of Skokie Senior Services, lending closet of canes/wheelchairs, insurance analysis, will-writing assistance, volunteer help with yard work, counseling, and more. 847-933-8208
An important in-person resource are geriatric care managers (GCMs), also called “aging life care professionals” (ALCPs), who are consultants you can hire to help with the planning, recruiting, hiring, supervision, and follow-up. GCMs and ALCPs develop multi-pronged plans to help aging clients stay put or transition to senior living facilities. These managers usually have backgrounds in social work, nursing, or geriatric medicine, and specialize in advocating for older adults, with training that equips them to help plan, coordinate, monitor, and provide services to clients and their families. Area agencies on aging often list GCMs and ALCPs, as does the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA) website, which lists its members.
ALCA has three types of membership. For its “Professional” membership, a consultant must have a degree in a related field and two or three years of supervised experience in the administration or supervision of client-centered services to the elderly and their families.
In addition to the requirements for a Professional membership, an ALCA “Advanced Professional Member” must hold one of the following certifications: Care Manager Certified (CMC) from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers (NACCM); Certified Case Manager (CCM) from the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC); Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM) from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW); or Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM) from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
“Associate” ALCA members must have a related degree and be currently employed in the aging life care field.
GCMs generally charge an initial assessment fee, and after that usually charge $75 to $175 per hour. Some require a retainer agreement.
Although the services offered by GCMs/ALCPs vary, the ALCA reports most help seniors and their families in the following areas:
- Health and disability—Assisting with getting care for physical and mental health and dementia-related problems by attending doctor’s appointments; communicating with family, clients, and medical pros; and evaluating types of services. (Don’t forget that Checkbook provides unbiased ratings of physicians and hospitals.)
- Financial—Paying clients’ bills, setting up or supervising a power of attorney relationship, assistance with entitlement programs, and help with insurance claims.
- Housing—Assistance with choosing and evaluating housing options.
- Families—Communication with family members at a distance, including problem-solving and addressing care concerns and conflicts.
- Local resources—Good GCMs know local resources and the best ways to tap them.
- Advocacy—Representing and advocating for clients and families with healthcare, housing, and other providers.
- Legal—References to legal professionals like elder law attorneys and estate professionals.
- Crisis intervention—Available to intervene in times of crisis by helping clients navigate emergency departments and hospitalizations and rehab stays.