By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: I know there are various Federal programs that might be available for my father and mother, but I have no idea how to find this information. Please help. Billy in Maine, 47

ANSWER: As a caregiver, you may tap into federally funded resources if they are available for your elder. These could include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Veterans Administration. You can write, call, or email these departments, or visit a local branch office. Each one will send you information about what they have to offer and what your elder must do to qualify for the benefits

Be sure to follow the exact instructions which spell out who is eligible for what benefits, and how to prove eligibility. Original documentation is usually required including birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, a social security card, military discharge papers and a death certificate. It would be a shame to overlook hard earned benefits that would increase your elder's quality of life.

In order to receive any of these benefits, you might first have to track down old documents and then fill out a lot of paperwork, but the resulting funds are well worth the time and effort. They could make all the difference for everyone involved, especially your loved one.

Usually, I'm called by a family who needs help. But in one particular case, an elderly woman called me directly to "help sort out her life." She said she had just been widowed and didn't know how much money she had or where it was. We quickly found her husband's insurance information and were also able to deal with the Social Security and Veterans Benefits paper work. We made charts and lists so that she could confidently deal directly with her newly hired team, including a financial advisor, a tax accountant, and a lawyer. It was wonderful to watch her go from being dependent and confused to becoming independent with some organizational assistance and professional guidance. And the Federal Benefits her husband had earned allowed her to live a comfortable lifestyle.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.