We have seen significant increases in information and referral calls and request for services over the past year due to increases in our older adult population along with the impacts of the pandemic. We understand that this is a very stressful time for everyone, but especially our older population and their caregivers, so we want to make sure this is not exacerbated by unrealistic expectations regarding the level of support and services that may be available to them.
Because of that, we would like to share the steps to accessing potential services from the Area Agency on Aging- Five County. We would like to remind every0ne that in almost all cases, we have waiting list for our in-home programs and it is not possible to provide immediate services to individuals.
The AAA also has other programs through your local Senior Centers along with some benefit enrollment programs, health prevention and education, volunteer programs, and general information and referral which is open to older adults, their caregivers and some disabled adults-depending on program. However, please note even with these programs there may be some limitations on who can be served and-given the large number of requests for assistance-it may be anywhere from 3-7 days before someone is able to get back to them, again depending on the program and number of requests, along with current funding and staffing limitations, which are exacerbated due to the pandemic.
For those seeking assistance in their own home through Home and Community Based Programs:
We have several public programs all of which have specific requirements and qualifications that must be met. The Area Agency on Aging-Five County is funded by different funding sources including The Older Americans Act, which is designated primarily for individuals over 60 and Medicaid Waivers with specific age criteria based on the program.
First, as part of the screening and eligibility, we need to look at the financial guidelines, set by Federal and State lawmakers, some programs require Medicaid and financial eligibility, which is completed at the Department of Work Force Services.
Once we screen for financial qualifications, we look at the activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The intake assessment is completed by a social service worker or other qualified staff who asks a series of question designed by the Utah State Division of Aging and Adult Services that rate need based on risk score. The team also looks at factors like natural support, caregiver burnout and community isolation.
To receive services there must be both a financial need and a physical need with a medium to high-risk score. Due to limited funding and full caseloads, a person may be placed on an applicant list. The applicant list is based on greatest need and not length of time on the list, which makes it difficult for us to provide a specific timeline of when an individual may be served along with limitations in funding. Some of the applicant lists our managed by the Division of Aging or the State Medicaid Agency on a statewide basis.
If an individual receives a denial due to income, they will need to research private options. Currently, we do not have the capacity to assist every caller in researching private pay LTC options. A google search for “senior services” can direct you to local resources. Remember to add the county you live in that search. We have plans to develop a database of community services and resources for older adults, but this was put on hold due to pandemic.
The other reason for denial is the risk score based on need. The local wait list is updated often and individuals may receive a call asking about any change in status and needs. At times, our lists are long and an individual may need to look for other resources, if they are on Utah Medicaid, they can contact their Accountable Care Organization (ACO) and ask for in home services from the State Plan Medicaid. Many personal care agencies contract with State Medicaid for bathing assistance and other services. They can check into the Senior Center for meals on wheels if qualified, or curb side pickup. We will also refer them to other community services as appropriate to try to meet their needs.
As the Area Agency on Aging, we strive to do all we can to support older adults in our service areas and continue to look for new service options and community resources to support the needs of older adults!
Tracy HeavyRunner is our Home and Community Based Program Director,
She has been with AAA-Five County since 1996. Tracy graduated from Southern Utah University and is a Social Service Worker. Additionally, she is a certified caregiver coach through the Rosalyn Carter Institute and a Master Trainer for the Chronic Disease, Diabetes and Pain Self-Management Programs.