Important, Little-known Resource for an Aging Parent

by Dale on March 29, 2010

Until I visited our Area Agency on Aging last week, I had no idea what an incredible resource these agencies are to adult children and their aging parents across our country.

I had these misconceptions.  How about you?

1.  Area Agencies on Aging serve as a hot-line for specific questions about resources for the elderly, but they are not much help beyond short questions.
2.  For more comprehensive services, the agencies only serve low-income elderly.
3.  Services offered by their geriatric care managers are of  lesser scope and/or quality than private geriatric care managers.
.

I was 100% wrong.  I corrected my understanding when I met with Tricia Gordon and Kim Charles of REAL Services (Indiana’s Area 2 Agency on Aging.)

Let me share what I learned so you too can understand the value Area Agencies provide older adult and their families.

What are Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)?

AAAs were established under the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1973 to respond to the needs of Americans aged 60 and older in every community.  There are 650 Area Agencies on Aging across our country.   These agencies provide a range of options to allow older adults to choose home and community-based services and living arrangements.  “AAAs make it possible for older adults to remain in their homes and communities as long as possible.”

How can I find one based on location?

Use the Eldercare Locator ( http://www.eldercare.gov/) and enter a zip code, city or county.  You can also call  800.677.1116.

Why is the name different from Area Agency on Aging?

Our community’s Area 2 Agency on Aging goes by the name REAL Services.  The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration designated REAL Services as the Area Agency on Aging for 5 local counties.   I learned that each Area Agency on Aging in Indiana goes by a different name.  That unique name is helpful for raising awareness and outreach within the community.

What services do Area Agencies offer?

Home and Community based services can include:

  • Information and Referral
  • Legal services
  • Case management
  • Transportation
  • Respite
  • Skilled nursing
  • Home health aide
  • Attendant Care
  • Emergency response system
  • Home delivered meals
  • Adult day services
  • Homemaker
  • Bath aide

More detail at: http://www.n4a.org/files/about-n4a/community-based-services.pdf


What is the process when an adult child or elderly person calls in?

Here is how our community’s agency handles calls.  The call center accepts the call.  It never goes to voicemail, and is always answered by a person.  Beyond answering the caller’s question, about 50% of the 2,000 calls each month result in what’s called “options counseling”.  The Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) Options Counselors listen for other needs and determines other services/programs the caller may need.  The approach is holistic.  Part of the options counseling is to help the caller understand financial eligibility.  Options may include private pay, government assistance, or Medicaid/Medicare insurance.

If  necessary, the counselor may refer the caller to a Geriatric Care manager who will provide an assessment of needs and requirements (often quite complex) of the older adult, and work with the family to arrange the right resources and services important for quality of life.

I also learned that the call center staffers are certified in suicide prevention and know how to de-escalate a situation or refer it to 911 when necessary.

How are Area Agencies unique?

Area Agencies across the country can be unique and still stay true to the foundational mission as set forth by the OAA.

  • Funding can vary from state to state and agency to agency in terms of funding by various grants and state programs.
  • There may be special programs or initiatives.  In our area, a home was renovated and modified to meet the needs of elderly and disabled.  It is called the “Caregiver Connection” and offers educational opportunities, training and support  for caregivers of older persons.  What a great service to area  families!  You can read more about it at http://www.southbendtribune.com/article/20100128/News01/1280308&Template=printpicart
  • Specific challenges within the community as well as agency leadership and staffing all contribute to the unique nature of each agency.

So, now you know!  Your Area Agency on Aging is a phenomenal resource.  You may not see a lot of marketing/advertising about them.  Spread the word to your friends, neighbors and family.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in California and your aging parent is in Florida.  You can reach the agency closest to your specific need by going online at http://www.eldercare.gov/ or calling 800.677.1116

Remember, the Area Agency’s mission is to help older persons remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.  They are waiting for your call!

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