Fort Worth seniors may not be familiar with the Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County, but this useful resource offers a wide array of valuable benefits for our older citizens. The agency is a branch of United Way, is staffed with both volunteers and skilled professionals, and serves eligible area residents 60 and older, as well as those with disabilities.
The agency offers many programs and benefits, ranging from housing assistance to income tax preparation. Several of the major programs offered by the group are discussed below, and questions regarding benefits can be directed to their main number at 817-258-8125. The agency also maintains a resource center (the Aging & Disability Resource Center) that provides valuable information and offers counseling, programs, and other local resources. The resource center can be reached at 855-937-2372.
As individuals age, health and other problems arise, complicating daily living and resulting in the need for full- or part-time help or caregivers. Activities such as cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, and mobility become increasingly complicated with age. The Area Agency on Aging is addressing these problems by providing information and guidance as well as physical and material support when appropriate.
Seniors should understand the roles that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security can play in their ongoing care or any medical-related issues. Counselors at the agency provide free information on what benefits these programs offer, as well as availability, eligibility, and application procedures. In addition, the agency offers a wide range of valuable information regarding local resources that eligible individuals may find helpful. Areas of focus include:
- Long-term care options
- Recent Medicare changes
- Prescription drug coverage options
- Medicare Savings Programs
- Preparing advance directives
- Opportunities for extra help
- Other available benefits
Caregiver and Respite Care
According to the Family Caregivers Alliance, there were 43.5 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. in 2015 (still the latest data available). These individuals provided some or all the care for an adult or child within the prior 12 months.
From the above figures alone as well as professional reports, dealing with an older adult is both physically and mentally tiring. The Area Agency on Aging recognizes a need to support and assist caregivers in terms of time and resources. Counselors are available to assist with in-home care, community-based services and support, and funding sources. The agency can also answer questions regarding:
- Respite care
- Coping skills
- Long-term care planning
- Medicare and Medicaid eligibility
- Other community resources
An ombudsman's program is also available for those in nursing or assisted living facilities. This program provides an individual who advocates for the elderly resident regarding quality of life and levels of care. The ombudsman helps the resident maintain the highest possible quality of life by working with the resident, families, and facility staff members. For example, the ombudsman can help resolve conflicts that affect residents, help protect residents’ rights, and offer ideas and opinions related to long-term care, meal planning, or treatment options. In many cases, the ombudsman serves as a willing listener.
In addition to providing information, guidance, and counseling, the agency also provides access to programs that improve the health and safety of elderly citizens. These include:
- A Matter of Balance — an eight-week falls prevention class
- HomeMeds — a medication safety program
- Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management — a six-week diabetes information workshop
- Care Transitions Intervention — a hospital discharge patient program
- Advanced Care Transitions — a hospital discharge patient program for patients and their caregivers
- Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors (PEARLS) — a depression management program for elderly adults
These programs are offered through the Aging and Disability Resource Center.
In addition to the services discussed above, the “2019-2020 Tarrant County Health Resource Guide for Caregivers,” available through the Aging and Disability Resource Center, describes a family care program offered by the agency, which includes family workshops and seminars designed specifically for caregivers assisting dementia patients. These are provided at either no or minimal costs, and online workshops are offered on demand via the agency's website.
These programs are designed to address the caregiver's health while connecting families with appropriate social networks. Educating families concerning the availability and eligibility of various networks, programs, and benefits is a major goal of the agency.
The Tarrant County Area Agency on Aging is in place to serve our community's elderly citizens to help each maintain the highest levels of healthcare and quality of life. The organization offers many free or low-cost programs focused on education, guidance, and support. Assistance is available for both the elderly patient as well as caregivers and their families. For individuals in the Tarrant County area, accessing this resource may open the door to a range of often unfamiliar programs and benefits.