Jack and Julie’s story: How will we pay for food and rent?

14 HFC House Choices GraphicJack and wife Julie, both in their early 80s, wondered aloud as to how they would pay for rent and food during a visit from their home-care nurse last month.

Jack recently suffered two heart attacks, and medical bills from the ambulance rides and hospital stays began to trickle in, putting an additional strain on their already stretched monthly budget. Their Kaiser Permanente nurse referred Jack to Hunger Free Colorado due to their partnership with the statewide nonprofit organization. They screen and support patients who struggle to put food on their tables, which can impact overall health.

“This is someone who worked his entire life and has always been self-sufficient until now,” said Donita Rafferty, the Older Adult Nutrition Lead for Hunger Free Colorado, after returning from a home visit with the couple in Littleton.

DSC_0083Prior to the heart attacks, Jack and Julie lived comfortably on a fixed income, but with the rising cost of food and utilities, their funds were dwindling each month. Not only were the medical bills beginning to arrive, but their landlord also planned to increase rent by $75 a month.

Though Jack and Julie did not qualify for food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), at this time, Donita helped to educate them on the process—and they may be able to reapply in the near future, allowing them to access funds to purchase needed groceries.

“Accounting for medical expenses they did not know could be deducted for SNAP, such as over-the-counter medications prescribed by the doctor, mileage to and from any medical appointments or picking up prescriptions, could make the difference for them receiving benefits,” shared Donita. “When Julie and Jack collect a month’s worth of medical expenses we will review their situation and reapply.”

SeniorsIn the meantime, Jack and Julie were given information on Meals on Wheels, as well as nearby food pantries and senior meal sites, which could fill the nutritional gap and keep them living independently.

More than one in seven Colorado seniors may find themselves in a similar situation, living on what they thought would be enough money to see them through their retirement years until a health or other issue changed their situation. A number of food assistance programs and community resources, such as SNAP/food stamps and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for Seniors (CSFP), are specifically designed to meet the needs of older Coloradans—from dietary restrictions to limited transportation.

Call the statewide Hunger Free Hotline toll-free at (855) 855-4626, Monday through Friday, to get connected to food resources via phone or an in-home visit. All calls are kept confidential, and messages left after-hours will be returned the next business day. For those with hearing loss, call Relay Colorado toll-free at 7-1-1 or (800) 659-2656.


This post is a feature for Older Americans Month. Please note that pseudonyms were used in place of real names.


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