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Area Agencies on Aging - Accessing Services

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The AAA and Title VI agency in each community provide information and assist individuals in accessing services that fall into five broad categories: information and access services, community-based services, in-home services, housing, and elder rights.

Information and access services consist of the following: Information and referral assistance, which provides assistance with locating services available in the community; health insurance counseling, which helps older adults understand their rights under Medicare, Medicaid, and managed care, and provides information about Medigap and other long-term care insurance policies; client assessment, which consists of a home visit by a trained professional to assess needs and service eligibility; care management, which is a plan of care developed in consultation with the client and family to ensure maximum independence and autonomy for the client; transportation for older adults to medical appointments, shopping, and meal sites; caregiver support, which provides education, counseling, and resources to caregivers while they are providing care to a spouse, older family member, or friend; and retirement planning and education to help older adults nearing retirement to focus on issues such as pension, health concerns, legal issues, and work and leisure options.

Community-based services comprise employment services to assist older adults in finding meaningful employment through the use of skill assessment, job counseling, and job placement; senior centers to provide social, educational, recreational, and physical activities for older adults, as well as a meal site; congregate meals, which are served to older adults in a senior center or group setting for the purpose of providing a nutritious meal in a highly social environment; adult day services, which provide community-based care for functionally impaired older adults, usually during the day hours, providing a respite for care-givers; and volunteer opportunities.

In-home services include home delivered meals, usually a midday or evening nutritious meal delivered to an older adult who is unable to prepare a meal. Meal delivery also provides a social contact for the meal recipient, which may be the homebound older adult's only live contact with the outside world. Homemaker assistance provides help with light housekeeping, laundry, cooking and shopping for the individual who just needs a little help living in the community, while chore services include major housecleaning, pest control, snow removal, and yard work. Telephone reassurance provides a regular daily call to an older adult. This service can reduce the feeling of isolation, and it provides a check on the older person's well-being. Friendly visiting provides a friendly visit to a homebound older adult; and emergency assistance and weatherization provides assistance paying fuel bills. The emergency response system provides older adults with an electronic device that can be activated to call for help. Home health services include visiting nursing, medication dispensing, health monitoring, various therapies, and instruction for individuals and family members, while personal care services provide assistance in bathing, grooming, feeding, mobility and other activities. Respite care provides a needed short-term break for caretakers by providing care for an older person.

Housing services include senior housing, which provides alternatives designed to meet the needs of older adults who wish to remain in an independent living environment, and alternative community-based living facilities, which includes a range of housing options that bridge the gap between independent living and nursing homes. This includes assisted living and adult foster care.

Elder rights provide legal and social help to older adults. Legal assistance provides legal advice and counsel for older persons and families who have legal and financial concerns; elder abuse prevention programs are designed to alleviate situations of abuse, neglect, or self-neglect—these programs include adult protection, guardianship, and conservatorship; and ombudsmen services are available to investigate and resolve complaints that involve older persons living in long-term care facilities.

Having to cope with the failing health of a spouse, family member, or friend can be emotionally draining, and finding the right help can be difficult and frustrating. However, through the AAA system, even relatives who live out of town can access necessary services, as a local AAA can provide information about the agencies in other localities. In this way AAAs serve as gatekeepers of information—they can provide answers about aging services in their community, as well as access to a nationwide network of AAAs. They provide security for the family that must live away from parents, and provide needed support to the older citizen trying to live at home with honor and dignity.

ROBERT LOGAN

INTERNET RESOURCES

Administration on Aging. The AoA website provides information on the Older Americans Act. www.aoa.gov

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. The N4A website is a good source of information on AAAs. www.n4a.org

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