Earlier this week I was at a meeting of campus and community people working in the area of aging. Among other things, we noted that we have all at some point had a conversation like this:
Me: How is your [mother/father/husband/wife]?
Other person: Not well. I’m so exhausted all the time. The rest of the family helps when they can, but they don’t live here and they have lives too. I wish there were some resources to help.
Me: Have you tried your Area Agency on Aging?
Other person: My what?
It’s frustrating that more people in this situation don’t know about the Area Agencies on Aging, but really why should we expect them to? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for my local Area Agency on Aging. Physicians and other health professionals may or may not know about them and recommend them to their patients. And unless you know someone who has used their services there’s no reason for you to know that they exist.
So here’s some information about Area Agencies on Aging. I hope you’ll share it far and wide to those who might benefit now or in the future.
What are Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs or “triple As”)?
AAAs were established in 1973 under the Older Americans Act. That means they are in part federally funded, but they are intentionally given lots of flexibility to meet local needs and preferences. They plan, develop, coordinate, and deliver a wide range of services at the local level. In addition to OAA funding they get money from Medicaid as well as a variety of state and local funding sources. In fact, for every $1 of federal OAA money, AAAs leverage on average an additional $3 from other sources.
In 2016, there were 622 AAAs. Their service area is based on population density so some AAAs may cover a focused urban area while others may cover one or more counties. Their structure varies depending on local needs. About 39% are independent nonprofits, 25% are part of county government, 28% are part of a Council of Governments or Regional Planning and Development Area, 2% are part of city government, and 5% have some other structure.
What do AAAs do?
AAAs offer five core services.
- Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Activities: provider training for recognizing elder abuse, outreach and education campaigns, efforts of coalitions or multidisciplinary teams
- National Family Caregiver Support Program: information and assistance for caregivers; individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training; respite care; and other supplemental services for caregivers
- Congregate and Home-Delivered Meals: can also include nutrition screening, education, and outreach
- Disease prevention and health promotion: evidence-based programs related to things such as chronic disease self-management or reducing the fear and incidence of falling
- Supportive services: transportation, outreach, information and referral, case management, adult day care, legal assistance, and in-home services such as personal care, chore, and homemaker services
They may also offer other services depending on the unique needs and preferences of the communities they serve.
Services are available for adults aged 60 and older as well as individuals of all ages who are caregivers, veterans, or have a disability or chronic illness.
What does this mean for me?
There is an AAA that serves your area. You can enter your zip code here and find the appropriate AAA as well as other relevant services in your area. You can also call 1-800-677-1116.
Each AAA has a website that will describe the services available, online contact forms so you can get more information, and toll free phone numbers if you want to talk to a live person.
If they don’t provide the help you need directly, there is a good chance they can direct you to someone who can. Based on the information you give them, they may also be able to suggest services that you didn’t even know were a possibility.
In case it’s not clear, I would recommend your local Area Agency on Aging as a first stop for any aging-related care needs you may have whether it’s for yourself or a loved one.