Are you – or do you know – an older adult who is struggling to take care of himself or herself, having trouble paying for medicine, affording a place to live, getting to doctors’ appointments, managing grocery shopping, handling housekeeping, and so forth?

If so, help may be at hand.  The National Council on Aging (NCOA) offers a free service at that will provide tailored recommendations about agencies to contact that can probably help you, based on your answers to detailed questions about your situation. NCOA says that it has helped more than 4 million people find a total of $15 billion in free benefits.

I created a fictional profile for a 70-year-old woman living on $1,500 a month in Social Security benefits.  She takes medicine to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.  BenefitsCheckUp identified 26 different federal, state, county, and local programs that could help improve her medical care, her financial situation, and her quality of life.

For example, the site provided a wealth of information about subsidized housing programs that could end up giving her a nicer place to live than the one she’s currently in – at a lower cost than she is currently paying.

It identified a variety of programs that can reduce her cost for needed prescription drugs.  The site described workshops available (in person and online) to help her better understand and manage her diabetes.

It listed agencies to contact that could help her get free transportation to doctors’ appointments, help with grocery shopping, and even assistance with tasks like housecleaning and doing laundry.

Other agencies listed can provide free meals delivered to her home, assist with personal care such as bathing, and work with her to help ensure that she takes her various medicines as intended.

The usefulness of such services extends far beyond the obvious benefits of each individual improvement.  Individuals -- before getting help -- may have been scared, uncomfortable, and upset, knowing that important tasks were falling through the cracks and feeling that they were one step away from disaster.  Once they start getting help, they may feel more confident, because trained professionals and volunteers are helping to watch out for them.  They may feel pleased to be the center of so much attention.

Additionally, relationships with family members may improve significantly. Relatives who are stretched thin may be less stressed and less worried as others take over some of the tasks they have been trying to handle.  Individuals getting services may have resented the need to depend so much on family members; when that need is reduced, their relationships with relatives may stop being so focused on their physical or financial limitations.  That can be a win for everyone.