Q: I am over 65 years old and looking for some help in getting my taxes ready. Is there free tax assistance available locally?

NS

Answer: It is once again time to begin thinking about preparing and filing your tax return. Fortunately, there are several organizations that provide tax preparation services at no charge. These organizations are staffed with trained preparers who are available to answer your questions, or if you wish, assist you with the organizing and filing of your return.

The Forsyth Free Tax Program is one useful option for local tax preparation support. The program offers several ways to receive help during tax season. If you’re looking to complete your taxes on your own and have a combined household income of $66,000 a year or less, their website (myfreetaxes.com) makes it easy to file online for free. However, if you don’t have internet access, or just need some extra help in filing your own taxes online there is a tax lab available for use at the Experiment in Self-Reliance (ESR) office, with an IRS-certified coach on hand to answer any questions.

As a third option, the Forsyth Free Tax Program also provides comprehensive one-on-one tax preparation services where volunteers will prepare and file your taxes for you at sites throughout the county. This service is available for residents with a combined household income of $54,000 or less. These Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites utilize volunteers in the community who have completed IRS-certified training and ensure Earned Income Tax Credit to anyone who qualifies, as well as other tax credits that can make a big difference to low-income households. Clients are encouraged to use their tax refunds to pay down debt, build up their emergency savings, or purchase assets like a car or house. Locations include the office of the Experiment in Self-Reliance, Goodwill Industries University, Goodwill Industries ROC, Walnut Cove Senior Center, King Public Library, Prosperity Center South and the Forsyth County Central Public Library. For more information about the services and necessary documentation for the Forsyth Free Tax Program, visit their website forsythfreetax.org, or reach out to the Experiment in Self Reliance office at 336-722-9400.

Additional assistance with questions or tax return preparation is also available through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program. This program offers free tax preparation assistance for simple filings Feb. 1 through April 15. You do not have to be an AARP member and there is no age requirement to get tax help from IRS-certified volunteers. Visit their website for more information and to find locations at aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/ or contact them at 888-227-7669.

Yet another option for tax help is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program. TCE provides free tax assistance to people who are age 60 and older. IRS-certified volunteers provide free assistance and basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals at community locations. The locations will be listed on their website, benefits.gov after Feb. 1.

Q: What is the difference between in-home care and home health care?

JB

Answer: The terms “in-home care” and “home health care” sound rather similar and can often be confusing. Both types of care are provided in a home setting, therefore many people unknowingly use the two terms interchangeably. The biggest difference between the two is that “in-home care” is nonclinical care, and “home health care” is clinical care.

In-home care is provided by caregivers, sometimes called home care aides or personal care aides. These individuals are trained to understand the particulars of senior care. Home care aides can assist older adults with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating, or just offer companionship. You might consider hiring in-home care if you or a loved one needs assistance with activities of daily living, does not drive or have access to transportation, or lives alone and are at risk for social isolation. In-home care is paid for privately by individuals or their families, certain long-term care insurance companies, or by Medicaid for qualifying people. There may be limited home and community care block grant dollars available for this type of care, as well.

Home health care is provided by a registered nurse, occupational or physical therapist, or other skilled medical professional. Oftentimes, home health care is prescribed as part of a care plan following a hospitalization — it could be short term or long term depending on the diagnoses. Home health care services can include therapy, skilled nursing (care given by a licensed nurse), administration of medications (including IV therapy and injections), pain management, medical tests, monitoring vital signs, and wound care. If home health care is prescribed by a physician, it can be covered by medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid for qualifying individuals. On the occasion that it is not prescribed by a physician, but desired by a patient, it would be considered private pay.

It is important to talk with your physician about your individual needs in the home. They can help review your plan of care and determine which level of care is needed.

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AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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