How to Get Financial Help for an Elderly Parent


U.S. Census Bureau data shows that between 4 million and 6 million Americans age 65 and older live at or below the poverty level. Federal, state and local government agencies can offer your parent financial help to supplement a modest Social Security income. Typically, senior citizens must be considered low income or very low income earners as determined by federal poverty standards to qualify for financial help. Your local Social Security Administration office or senior services agency can help you determine your parent's eligibility. Should he qualify, getting help is simply a matter of filling out various applications and sending them to the right offices for processing.

Food Assistance

As a senior citizen age 60 or older, your parent qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formally known as food stamps. Help your parent find out if she qualifies by guiding her through the program's online eligibility tool. Then, pick up, complete and drop off a SNAP application for your parent at your local SNAP office. You can also pick up an application from your local Social Security Administration office. Personnel at your local SSA office can help your parent fill out the form and send it to the local SNAP office for processing. SNAP provides a certain monthly amount based on a review of your elderly parent's financial profile, which includes, but is not limited to, her Social Security income and monthly housing costs.


  • California seniors don't qualify for SNAP because they receive comparable nutrition assistance benefits from the state, according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

Your parent also may qualify for the Nutrition Services Incentive Program, or NSIP, known locally as Meals on Wheels. The program serves meals to seniors at least once per day at certain locations in some communities or delivers meals directly to the home. Your local senior services agency can provide information on meal service locations and delivery. If your parent enjoys getting out and shopping, you may wish to help her sign up for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program; the program provides seniors with coupons to shop at participating farmers' markets, roadside stands and similar locally grown produce outlets. Contact your local SSA office or senior services office for food assistance applications.

Housing Assistance

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds housing assistance programs and counts nearly 1 million senior citizens among the Americans receiving housing help. If your parent still lives on his own, visit your local public housing agency to discuss affordable housing options, including public housing and housing vouchers.


  • Public housing may or may not be right for your parent. If he lives in an urban area where housing demand is high, he may have to wait up to five years to be placed in a residence, according to the website Senior Living.

HUD also offers Section 202 housing for semi-independent senior citizens who need some assistance with their daily activities such as dressing and housekeeping. Your parent qualifies for this special housing option if he's age 62 or older and has a very low income, as determined by federal poverty standards.

Utility Bills

The high cost of energy could put a dent in your parent's modest income. Some states offer low-income senior citizens financial help to pay electricity and gas bills, according to Contact your local senior services agency to find out which local agency accepts utility bill assistance applications; such agencies go by different names among the states.

Health Care Assistance

If your parents qualify as low income, they'll be eligible to receive Medicaid, which covers a range of health care costs for low-income seniors -- hospitalization, prescription drugs and skilled nursing care including out-of-pocket costs, according to the Medicaid website. Depending on your state, you can assist your parent in applying for Medicaid on the website of your state's health care marketplace or your local social services agency, among other local health care agencies.

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