Many people associate the aging process with the need for nursing home care. In fact, most persons do not need nursing home care. Instead, many parents or older persons can remain independent, but frequently need assistance with various daily living tasks. Communities throughout the United States offer varied services for their aging populations. Check with the social services office of your parent or older person's local government to determine which services are available in his or her area. Utilizing these community resources can help your parent or older person live more comfortably and remain independently in his or her home. In addition, a parent or older person who have chosen an alternative living arrangement, such as congregate housing, can use these services as an additional tool to make daily living simpler. The list below will familiarize you with some of the community resources that may be available in your parent or older person area and suggest the general availability of these services across the country. Remember, you must contact the local government where your parent or older person resides to determine if these services are available in his or her area.
Adult Day Care
Adult day care centers offer a variety of health care and social services for people who need assistance with personal care such as grooming or toileting, but not around-the-clock care. Round trip transportation may be provided to the center where people may spend a few hours or all day.
Availability - Adult day care center availability varies. The centers may be operated by hospitals, nursing homes, religious organizations or privately owned care centers. Contact your parent or older person's Area Agency on Aging for information.
Area Agencies on Aging
Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) provide access to a variety of services to older persons in communities throughout the United States. These services include: information and referral, homemaker/home health aides, transportation, congregate care and home-delivered meals, chores, and other supportive services.
Availability - AAAs are located in every State. The types of services they offer will differ. A partial listing of AAA addresses and telephone numbers are provided in the Resource and Referral Services section of this Handbook.
Assistive products are services and devices that can be purchased or rented to help people function better at home. These may include devices for persons with hearing and/or visual impairments and those who need help in walking or moving about.
Availability - Assistive products may be available from medical equipment rental stores or electronic product retail stores. Several States have assistive products and devices distribution programs operated by the State rehabilitation agency for the disabled.
Case management is a method of assessing a person's total care needs, arranging for necessary services, and coordinating the delivery of services. Since care problems rarely occur one at a time and services may be fragmented, this service can be used by caregivers to coordinate a care plan.
Availability - While availability varies, case management services are becoming more widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Friendly visitors are volunteers who regularly visit older persons who may need companion- ship. They may read, write letters, run local errands, etc. for the older person.
Availability - Friendly visitors are usually provided by a religious or volunteer organization. Contact your parent or older person's church or synagogue or the Visiting Nurses Association to see if the service exists in their community.
Home adaptation means making changes to your parent or older person's home to accommodate his or her changed needs. Adaptation may include small changes like installing grab bars, or major changes such as widening doorways for wheelchairs or installing a bathroom on the first floor of the home.
Availability - You need a good contractor and a good idea of what your parent or older person wants done. Seek advice from professionals you know you can rely on, such as an occupational therapist, before hiring anyone to do major jobs.
Home Chore Services
Home chore services offer minor household repairs, household cleaning, and yard work.
Availability - Home chore services are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Home-delivered meals or "meals-on-wheels" is a service that delivers hot, nutritious meals once or twice a day, usually five days per week. Most home-delivered meal programs can accommodate special diets.
Availability - Home-delivered meals are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Home Health Care
Home health care covers a wide variety of medical services provided by such professionals as nurses or physical therapists.
Availability - Home health care is widely available. Contact your parent or older person's Visiting Nurses Association or AAA. Refer to the Practical Tips for Elder Care section for a helpful checklist on selecting a home health care agency. Also, see the Resource and Referral Services section for a listing of home health care resources.
Home Maintenance and Repair Programs
Home maintenance and repair programs (usually sponsored by nonprofit organizations) provide home maintenance, home repairs, and help with emergencies such as frozen pipes. No major improvements or cosmetic changes are included. Some programs will help you work with contractors.
Availability - These programs are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Homemaker services include assistance with grooming and dressing, and help with meal preparation, food shopping, or light housekeeping.
Availability - Homemaker services are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Hospice is a special kind of care for terminally ill people and their families. It does not focus on recovery through medical treatment, but instead helps people cope with the physical and emotional pain of dying from a clearly terminal illness. Hospice care may be given at home or in a hospice facility, and may be provided by or supplemented by trained volunteers, as well as by family members. Insurance coverage for hospice care varies. Medicare will provide benefits to patients who are diagnosed as being terminally ill, but patients receiving hospice benefits waive their regular Medicare coverage while they are under hospice care.
Availability - Availability varies from State to State. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information. You can also contact your parent's State hospice or home care association, the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare at (202) 547-6586, or the Hospice Association of America at (202) 546-4759.
Nutrition services provide people with inexpensive, nutritious meals in group settings such as senior centers, churches, synagogues, or senior housing. Nutrition sites may provide transportation.
Availability - Nutrition services are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)
PERS are emergency alert button devices that are placed in the home and can be pressed to summon help from emergency response centers such as hospitals or 800 numbers.
Availability - Approximately ten national companies manufacture PERS. They may not be readily available in all areas. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Respite care provides short-term relief to people who care for a parent or older person at home. The respite can be for a few hours or several days. It may be provided at home, at adult day care centers, or at hospitals overnight.
Availability - Respite care services are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Senior centers offer older people an oppor- tunity to socialize and a place to meet. They offer a wide variety of social, educational, and recreational programs. Some senior centers provide transportation services.
Availability - Senior centers are widely available. Contact your parent or older person's AAA for information.
Telephone reassurance is offered by volunteers who arrange to talk to older persons daily to ensure that "all is well." This service is especially helpful to people who live alone.
Availability - Availability varies in communities. Contact your parent or older person's AAA, church or synagogue, or Visiting Nurses Association.
This information is reprinted with permission from the
AARP's publication Tomorrow's Choices.