Resources to help seniors in need

Posted Oct. 31, 2010, at 10:51 p.m.

Depending on whose statistics you believe, the Great Recession is over. Or it’s about to be over. Or it’s winding down and the recovery isn’t far off.

Or none of the above.

This last answer may be the one that rings true with a lot of people who haven’t seen good times in a long time. They’re the folks who don’t find humor in the old joke that the recession wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t come on the heels of such hard times.

Among the people who suffer most in a sluggish economy are seniors. Their earning power is down, and their needs — especially health care — are up. Older Mainers may find themselves in competition with others in need when it comes to receiving social services, which are squeezed by the tight economic times.

Just finding a source of help can be challenging. There are lots of agencies, public and private, that stand ready to help. It may not be easy to locate the kinds of assistance seniors need and to determine whether they meet the various requirements so they can get help in a timely fashion.

A place to start is a website put together by the National Council on Aging. It’s titled “BenefitsCheckUp,” and the site claims to be America’s most comprehensive Internet-based listing of benefits programs for seniors with limited incomes.

You can use BenefitsCheckUp to find programs offered by state and local governments, plus private agencies. First, you’ll have to gather some basic information about yourself and your spouse; this includes data on your medications, income history and assets, estimates of current expenses, length of time in current residence and veteran status. You’ll also be asked for your date of birth.

With this information entered, the website can direct you to any sources of help for which you are qualified. You also can have someone in whom you have confidence fill in the information for you. The help sources are returned with directions on how to get there and phone numbers to call.

In Maine, the Office of Elder Services offers another comprehensive, web-based source of information on a range of programs and services. The office is part of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Maine government’s web efforts are award-winning, and navigating is easy; clicking from a drop-down menu de-livers information on more than a dozen most-discussed topics, including assisted living, adult protective services and help for caregivers.

There are also five Aging and Disability Resource Centers, or ADRCs, across Maine. The centers are based at area agencies on aging. They have staffers who can answer questions about in-home, community-based and institutional services for older Mainers.

“There’s no way they can know all the options,” says Dyan Walsh, director of Community Services at the ADRC in Bangor. She invites calls from both older people and Mainers 18 and over with disabilities. The phone number is 941-2865.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or go to http://necontact.wordpress.com.

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