While the process of growing older is in many ways a positive experience, bringing us new challenges and opportunities, it may also bring a new set of needs relating to changes in physical and emotional health, living conditions, family situations, and caregiving responsibilities. The Area Agency on Aging provides and coordinates specialized services to meet those needs.
Since in-home, health-related services are based on need, access begins with a "needs assessment" conducted by an assessor or care manager. Based on that evaluation, specific services are recommended, arranged, and monitored through an ongoing formal care plan. Depending on an individual's situation and level of need, services might include personal care assistance, attendant care, assistance with household cleaning and maintenance, or home delivered meals. Social services or counseling may also be arranged.
For families or spouses with caregiving responsibilities for an older person, the Family Caregiver Support program offers a variety of services, including respite and limited financial assistance, to ease the task of providing care. The Area Agency on Aging also coordinates protective services, to safeguard older adults who are at risk of abuse, exploitation, or neglect.
Sometimes, an individual's needs exceed the level that can be addressed through the regular system of in-home services, Adult day care may be an option for seniors who need a supervised setting during the day. Regardless of age, when placement in a nursing home or long-term care facility becomes necessary, an Area Agency on Aging Assessor may be assigned. After completing an assessment, the worker may determine that the person can be diverted from placement and remain at home with the provision of an intensive level of home-based services. These services are referred to as the Aging Waiver. The program has specific eligibility requirements, however, the whole goal is to keep individuals in their home of choice for as long as possible, avoiding nursing home placement. The Area Agency on Aging may continue to assist seniors even after placement in a long-term care facility through the Ombudsman program. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman is responsible for investigating and resolving complaints from people receiving long-term care services, whether those ser-vices are provided in a facility such as a nursing home or in the senior's own residence in the community.