Pathlights expands help to seniors as economy puts squeeze on fixed-income budgets
She said the economy has led to more people turning to the program.
“We have experienced an increase in the amount of phone calls coming in to request evaluation for eligibility of all benefits,” she said. “Many clients that are already enrolled are calling to learn of other possible assistance as many people are struggling. Information is available at 708-361-0219 or www.pathlights.org.
She said the organization wants to build awareness because many people aren’t aware of these benefits. Some benefits are linked to income and assets, but some, such as the Medicare Prescription Plan D, which opens for enrollment Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, are not.
“Sometimes there are programs that people aren’t aware of, and we want to be sure we’re reaching as many people as possible,’” she said.
Pathlights, which has helped adults 60 and older and people with disabilities for nearly 50 years, has expanded its Path to Financial Stability Program, which helps residents of Palos, Lemont, Orland, Worth and Stickney townships apply for benefits.That free service helps residents find energy assistance, transportation, food, and savings on prescriptions, property taxes, health insurance and cellphone or internet service. It has been in greater need with increasing prices.Barbara, a client who lives in Alsip, said the nonprofit organization means the world to her, especially given increases in food, utility and medicine costs.
“Without them, I would not know what to do for sure,” she said. “They are unbelievable. They’re fantastic.”
Barbara, who is in her 80s, said Pathlights’ assistance to receive good medical coverage is most helpful, along with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, or SNAP.
“The main thing is my prescriptions,” she said. “That’s quite expensive.”
She knows firsthand how difficult it can be to ask for help.
“I have lived in Alsip for many years , and the first time I went to Pathlights I saw some ladies who were volunteers and I thought they were looking at me,” she recalled. “I felt a little embarrassed for a moment, and then I thought ‘Why? They’re not living my life. I have to do what I need to make my life comfortable.’ I’m not asking for extras or things I don’t need.”Barbara said she used to go to church with the volunteers, and they thought she was doing OK, even though she was in need.“It happens, but you have to overcome the embarrassment and go for it,” she said. “If you are in dire need of medical coverage or food stamps or anything else — your utilities — do not hesitate to contact them to see what they have to say.”
She said the manager was wonderful and always got back to her or had someone else do it.
“They were very kind, helpful and sympathetic,” she said. “I want to praise the volunteers that work there and the employees at Pathlights. They are looking out for your best welfare.”Another client helped by Pathlights is Rita, 82, who lives in Orland Park with her roommate, Steve, 92. She gets help with utility bills, and Steve gets assistance with SNAP.“I never in my life thought we would have these needs, but it has happened,” Rita shared, adding a hospital stay in 2019 followed by three weeks in a nursing home changed her circumstances. “They’re very helpful in so many ways. They’re nice.”She said she doesn’t mind getting help for someone else, like her roommate, “but for myself I get embarrassed.” She tells people about the assistance Pathlights provides but doesn’t say that she receive services.“A man was saying he wouldn’t have any place to live, and I said to go to Pathlights and see if they can help you out,” she said. “I do recommend them because they have helped so much. They don’t look down on you. They are helpful. They want to help you.”Barbara and Rita are among 1,800 people Pathlights completed applications for this year. New executive director Elaine Grande said about 2,800 people have contacted Pathights for advice and guidance on financial issues and benefits.Grande said it’s critical to assist as many people as possible in regaining financial stability, and the Path to Financial Stability Program works on cost saving programs to help clients lower their overall living expenses, ideally helping them stretch their monthly income and remain in their homes and communities.“This often-complex process has become increasingly more challenging for some as most applications are now completed online,” she said. “While the work has always been done, Pathlights has developed and enhanced the program over the years.”Thanks to what she called generous financial support from Lemont Township, Northwestern Medicine and the Henrietta Lange Burk Foundation, the Path to Financial Stability Program has expanded. It’s also funded by federal money and other interested partners, as well as AgeOptions and the Area Agency on Aging, which supports it through the Title 3 Older American Act funds.Companies or individuals who would like to contribute to the program can click on the Donate tab at www.pathlights.org, contacting the organization or sending a check with a note to Pathlight’s office in Palos Heights.“Our experts help you learn about, evaluate, assess eligibility and apply for cost-savings programs ,” Grande said. “They support clients throughout the process, advising on the correct documentation and then submitting the application for the client.”
She said clients who meet specific criteria can sometimes get direct support.
“Occasionally Pathlights may have funds available to help with specific needs,” she explained. “Currently we can assist with past due utility, rent and mortgage bills.”The Illinois Department on Aging has also provided emergency senior service funds , which can help eligible clients with some necessary expenses such as nutritional needs, personal hygiene needs and emergency assistance, Grande said.
She said the economy has led to more people turning to the program.
“We have experienced an increase in the amount of phone calls coming in to request evaluation for eligibility of all benefits,” she said. “ Many clients that are already enrolled are calling to learn of other possible assistance as many people are struggling.”
Most people are asking about help with rent and mortgage payments.
“This could be because it is their greatest expense,” she said. “We have observed that rents are increasing significantly, and this can be a hardship for those on a fixed income.”Trained staff collect information from potential clients about their financial situation and assess their eligibility for available programs , giving them detailed lists of the documents required to apply. Staff submit the applications once the documents are received and provide follow-ups to ensure the benefit is received. Staff also help through any appeal process. Information is available at 708-361-0219 or www.pathlights.org.She said the organization wants to build awareness because many people aren’t aware of these benefits. Some benefits are linked to income and assets, but some, such as the Medicare Prescription Plan D, which opens for enrollment Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, are not.“Sometimes there are programs that people aren’t aware of, and we want to be sure we’re reaching as many people as possible,’” she said. “I’m sure there are people out there who could be saving money. Who doesn’t need that?”