The is the season to connect with friends and family. Sometimes when visiting an aging loved one, we may be confronted with a slow decline in health and one of life’s most difficult decisions for a family to make is are they OK to continue to live alone? The aging person usually insists that they are fine to live alone. If you have not had to address this issue most likely you will or know someone who does. As we age and live longer, financial, legal, health care and long-term care issues affect families not just individuals.
Most of us are not experts in all of these areas but it is important to know who and where you can turn to for advise to help loved ones “age in place.” Families are doing the best they can but they are struggling between balancing the demands of child care and elder care. We hear from caregivers and family members over and over that they simply want to know where they can turn to get help.
In Arizona there are eight Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). The AAA’s advocate, plan, coordinate, and develop and deliver home and community-based services. In addition, these agencies provide supportive assistance, accurate information, evidence-based health promotion programs, and local resource connections to their clients. The goal of this aging service network is to enable older adults to “age in place,” that is, to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
One of the most useful forms of help that adult children can provide for their aging loved ones is to provide information about community resources that are available to enhance their independence.
Sometimes just a simple home modification can help reduce the risk of accidents and make daily household activities more comfortable to perform. Emergencies Response Systems not only summon emergency help quickly, but it can increase the feeling of security within the home. The image of “I have fallen and I can’t get up” is a reality to many families and knowing that a loved one can get help, can make someone safe to stay in their own home.
Transportation is also available to assist older adults to a congregate meal program, adult day care or to an appointment to a doctor. There are many community resources that are available to help older people live alone and independently, which can delay institutionalization. Contact your local AAA and they can help guide you through the aging maze.
The AAA’s each have a helpline with trained professionals who conduct initial telephone screenings and provide information and assistance to callers. They may also initiate referrals to a specific department and/or community agencies for elderly and disabled individuals who may be eligible for subsidized services or direct assistance. General information about a wide variety of programs, services and benefits can be provided over the phone, by appointment or by mail. There are many options available and a simple call can often help families make decisions to help loved ones age in place.
• Dana Marie Kennedy is the state coordinator for the Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging. For more information, visit www.azaging.org.