A need for temporary financial help can happen suddenly. Sometimes serious circumstances come up in life in which assistance is necessary, including as we age. Even those who thought they had made careful financial plans may find themselves needing a little short-term help.

Sometimes something happens and saving for retirement is not quite enough. You may have been told by others to have a garage sale, sell assets, ask family for a temporary or permanent loan, even donate blood. These are all helpful short-term. But there are many other resources you can tap into too. Besides federal public benefits, assistance can be found through local sectors and private organizations.

Both state and city governments are aware of the high cost when subsidizing seniors in assisted living or nursing homes, and find it more cost-effective to help people remain at home for as long as possible. So various programs are provided or coordinated with agencies and non-profit organizations.

Here are more of our findings for senior assistance, for a variety of needs. The care of elderly can sometimes feel overwhelming, and extra assistance can help. Programs will differ in various states and counties, so this is just a basic guideline.


It is always amazing to me how many services and temporary financial help are offered through individual cities. I live in a relatively small city, yet there are a vast number of helpful services available. It is likely that your town also has a community action office. These are usually private, non-profit organizations.

They may offer help in such areas as:
Emergency cash; small loans. Home repair and painting (since cities have ordinances mandating home upkeep). Food shelves; free weekly community meals where folks can socialize. Emergency, transitional, and permanent supportive housing. Short-term counseling; bus tokens or free transportation; free gently-used clothing and access to thrift shops; vouchers for various city services; referrals to other free local services.

Your city may also have volunteer or low-cost services provided by organizations for personal emergency device assistance, homemaking and housekeeping, hospice, and telephone reassurance.

Also call your utility company to see if they have temporary programs such as heating assistance. Make sure you ask them what documentation you must provide for an appointment or mail-in application.

Our town (and others I am familiar with) also has a private organization that provides temporary financial help through a one-time cash gift to those who are referred to them – by churches, senior centers, civic groups, etc. The money is for a specific purpose such as rent or mortgage assistance, bills, even emergency car repair. These groups are very low-key and you find out about them through networking and referral.

You can call your city hall if you don’t know where to start. Or you may already be familiar with a similar local community action center.


Almost all counties provide social services and various types of temporary financial help. It depends on your county (and state). They can be quite extensive, including:

Housing assistance, senior outreach and health, discount drug programs, special veteran’s services, senior transportation (especially for disabled), help to stay at home programs, free activities and transportation, food shelves and food delivery (i.e. Meals on Wheels in conjunction with given cities), financial medical assistance, long-term care waiver programs, companionship programs, and referrals to many other helpful sources and advocacy groups. You may also be able to get help with basic financial planning and how to make a budget.

You can look up your county social services online. In the search box, type in “social service” with your county, state. It will also be listed in the County section of the phone book.


Your state’s Department of Human Services will have valuable programs and temporary financial help. These will vary from state to state, depending on legislation and funding. Examples are:
Medical assistance and health care programs including for catastrophic illness, prescription drug assistance, family cash assistance, deaf and hard of hearing services, and adult daycare services.

Also Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps. Programs may overlap with county services.

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) — A national elderly assistance program run by the state, offering individual counseling and help to those on Medicare, and to their families. Participate via phone, personal meetings, public presentations, etc. Call Medicare at 1-800- 633-4227, or visit the web site at: www.shiptalk.org.

Find help online by doing a search with your state and “Department of Human Services.” It is also listed in the State section of the phone book.

Many states also have an Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA).

Free business help — For those who need free help starting or maintaining a business (small or large), call your local chapter of SCORE – a volunteer network of retired executives in every state. They were established in the 1960’s and have assisted many millions of businesses. I have used their services and they’re extremely effective. They can also direct you to other local resources for additional help.

Private Organizations

Private organizations provide various levels of temporary financial help. Most have many local chapters throughout the country. They emphasize respect and overall support, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. Many are non-profit, dependent largely on donations, and have strong networks of volunteers to help make their services possible.

Salvation Army — The Salvation Army offers many means of temporary financial help and also has programs especially for seniors, age 55 and up. Programs differ with various locations. They may include day care, hot lunch, special senior residences; plus a variety of activities classes, post-retirement information, even senior camping.

United Way — Has many programs especially for health and financial stability. Although much of their work is with children and working families, they do have some elderly assistance including tax assistance. Call the office in your area.

Local council of churches — Most larger towns and cities have a local council of churches in which religious leaders from many traditions come together to help with the needs of the community. Temporary financial help will be available in different ways.

Some help with cash assistance. Services can overlap with food shelves and housing shelters, as well as energy assistance. They may operate a type of crisis assistance ministry. Your local place of worship can refer you as well. If you are not a member of one, many will be open to your phone call anyway.

Lutheran Social Services (LSS) — This dedicated organization has offices in most states. They can provide temporary financial help with life basics such as food and shelter, health issues and safety. As a religious group, they also offer assistance with spiritual and emotional matters.

Catholic Charities USA — This large organization, over 100 years old, helps millions of people each year, regardless of religion or background. They have many affiliates and agencies nationwide and do a lot of work on the local level. They’re very helpful with inquiries about their programs.

The Evangelical Good Samaritan Society — This group was established in 1922 and is very experienced in helping the elderly. It has many offices around the country. They offer many options for housing and campus living, such as senior apartments and assisted living, memory care, therapy, skilled nursing, etc.

Local clinics and hospitals — Many states have large networks of clinics and hospitals, some being non-profit. Often these groups have special funds for temporary financial help set aside for those who qualify. Free or low-cost services are available – and not just for standard doctor exams and immunizations.

Clinics could including CAT scans and MRI’s, xrays, blood work and other tests, counseling, etc. Prescription assistance or vouchers may be available. Religiously sponsored hospitals also often have funds set aside for temporary financial help.

If your Medicare benefits to not cover your needs and/or you have been putting off medical attention due to finances, be sure to specifically inquire with your local clinic and hospital about such programs.

Seeking temporary financial help often includes getting your personal and financial information together in advance. Call first, check brochures, etc., to find out exactly what documents you need to send in or bring into an appointment.

About Quick Money and Debt Help

Always be cautious of groups and companies (especially online) who offer you ways to re-finance your home (which you can then lose should you end up defaulting), or credit cards, or debt consolidation.

We have written more about these issues – see the links below. Also, if you are considering a payday advance loan, consider whether it is realistic for you to pay it back, and how you will do so. Otherwise, this type of temporary financial help can really backfire.

If you call your senior center or city hall, you may find volunteers who can give free advice to those who financially qualify, for basic financial matters and paying off debt. You may qualify for Legal Aid in your area, if needed.

Again, to find out about more temporary financial help in your area, you can also connect with:

Your local senior center
Your town hall
Community centers
Your place of worship
Clubs and organizations you or friends and relatives belong to
Local clinics and hospitals

There may come a time when you or your loved ones are stabilized and able to give back. If you are not able to financially donate to organizations such as the ones mentioned, then do consider whether you are able to volunteer, even in a small way. At least spread the word so that others may do so. Every bit helps, as you may well know!

to Elderly Assistance and Public Benefit

There are many public benefits available for elderly assistance at both the national and state levels, and often local. Many of these will provide temporary financial help.

You will be familiar with some, but you may not be aware of how many more programs could be available at your state and local level. Local organizations in your town can help with elderly issues.

First Steps for Elderly Assistance

Where to begin?
You can always start by contacting your local senior center. Or, you may be already dealing with a health care provider or medical social worker because of current elderly problems with health.

Be sure to explain in detail all of the needs you anticipate to this valuable contact person. She/he may have all kinds of information to help you with, after understanding your specific needs. Also contact your church. There are often staff or volunteers who assist with elderly issues.

We also have a separate page on More Temporary Financial Help ideas for further state, county, city and private sources — elderly assistance programs that help with the basics for food, medical, housing, temporary financial help, and in many other areas. Some of them involve an application process, sometimes complicated, so you or your elderly loved one may need help with that.

Elderly assistance programs usually require preparing your personal and financial information in advance. When you make an appointment to apply for benefits and elderly services, they will notify you of which documents you will need to bring. And be sure you ask!

Common items you may be asked for:

    ___Two forms of ID, including drivers license or state ID card.
    ___Birth certificate.
    ___Marriage license.
    ___Legal change of name documents.
    ___Spouse’s death certificate.
    ___Social Security card.
    ___Veteran’s information incl. discharge papers.
    ___If employed, proof of employment including pay stubs.
    ___Other social services you receive, i.e. Food Stamps.
    ___One to three months’ of certain utility bills.
    ___Previous year’s tax forms.
    ___Proof of monthly income, and from where.
    ___Current balances in checking and savings accounts.
    ___One to three months of statements for bank accounts.
    ___All balances for IRA, pension, other retirement accounts.
    ___Other investment information.
    ___List and documentation of all assets.

Most likely you will not need all of them.
Again, be sure you ask!

Elderly Assistance Organizations

Many of these elderly assistance organizations have national, state, even local offices. It is always best, of course, to deal with the office in your state. The way states administrate programs can differ. Here are some general resources:

Social Security.
As a primary part of elderly assistance, most elderly people and their families are familiar with Social Security benefits. Starting at age 62, you are eligible to receive monthly income based on you or your spouse’s work history (whichever amount in higher), having paid the Social Security retirement tax for at least 10 years. Sometimes benefits can be paid to other family members. There are many details to understanding and calculating Social Security benefits. Call 1-800-772-1213, or visit their web site at: www.ssa.gov.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
This elderly assistance program is available to those over age 65; disabled and blind may also qualify. It pays monthly benefits. You may be able to receive both Social Security and SSI. See Social Security contacts above.

Medical Benefits

There are several medical benefits available on both the federal and state levels. You will be familiar with most, and it is best to visit their web sites directly or call, as guidelines do change. Here is a list of possibilities:

  • Medicare — Medicare national health insurance program for those over age 65, and sometimes for younger people who have disabilities. There are several “Parts” to Medicare and it can be confusing. The Medicare web site is thorough, and you can begin to apply 3 months before you reach age 65. However, it is best to ask for professional advice. Often your local senior center can set you up with someone. Or call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227, or visit their web site at: www.medicare.gov.
  • Medicaid — This is a federal program for those with limited income and assets run by the individual states so requirements differ. Call your State Medical Assistance office, or Medicaid services at 1-800-638-6833, or visit the Medicaid web site.
  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) — A federal program also run by the state, providing counseling and help to Medicare recipients and their families. Their web site at www.shiptalk.org. will help you find an office in your state and what your state offers. Or call Medicare at 1-800- 633-4227.
  • Consolidated Health Centers — These Health Centers are federally funded and offer comprehensive primary and preventive health care, plus many social services, to those who are medically unserved and underserved, such as low income, uninsured, homeless, those in public housing, migrant and seasonal workers, etc. Services are offered to all residents in that area regardless of ability to pay. Speak with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or call 301-594-4300 for more information.
  • Area Agencies On Aging (AAAs) — These agencies were established under the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965 are affiliated with the State Agencies on Aging specifically to help the elders age 60 and over and their families. There may be several such agencies within a given state. Services vary widely according to local budgets and resources. Your state may also have a Board On Aging. You can look up these agencies by searching for your State, and then Area Agencies On Aging.

Veteran’s Assistance
If you or your loved one was a veteran, you may qualify for many additional elderly assistance benefits, including health care, disability, pharmacy, burial benefits, life insurance. Call 1-800-827-1000; or visit the web site at: www.va.gov.

Food Stamps
This is a valuable program for elderly assistance, and is through the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). As of 2008 it has been re-named “SNAP” — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Individual states may use a different name. Affording food is one of the basic elderly issues. This program can help you with temporary financial help for food.

If you qualify, you will be given a special debit care for buying groceries. Most grocery stores participate, as well as Meals on Wheels and some senior centers. You must qualify to participate, and your resources may not have to include your home, car, or some retirement accounts (IRA, Keogh, 401k).

This is run by the state, so check the State listings in blue government section of your phone book. Or visit the usda.gov/snap web site.

Legal Aid
There are Legal Aid Societies in all states that provide elderly assistance. They are further broken down by city, county, or region. Legal Aid is staffed by professional, licensed attorneys and paralegals to specifically help those with lower incomes.

Legal Aid can help in a variety of matters such as simply explaining your responsibilities and rights under current law about certain issues. Other areas include helping with debt, landlords, utilities, elderly abuse, being sued, employment issues.

Since these are local offices, check your phone book, call your Attorney General’s office, or ask your senior center.

The Centers for Independent Living (CIL):
A program in many states that provide many services for independent living, such as information and referrals; training for independent living skills; counseling; advocacy; community; planning; and recreational events. Services differ with each state. Contact your state, or get general information at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), which particularly helps those with disabilities.

Free Tax Help
This important elderly assistance service is also provided on a local basis, and may be available from a variety of sources. Many churches and senior centers offer help. (Our local senior center provides free tax advice by a professional).

It is always smart to start by inquiring with your senior center or church. Your City Hall may provide information as well. Some states and counties have organizations such as Community Action Councils. Your county may something similar — providing free meals, clothing banks, counseling, and various types of financial help.

For more state, county, city and private sources, see our page at More Temporary Financial Help.