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If we are lucky, we will all grow old at some point in our lives. And although there is a lot to be said for maturity and experience, our aging bodies and minds can present their own, unique set of problems. To help us handle the challenges that may affect us as we age, the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency’s (HHSA) Aging Services programs have a lot to offer.
As old age approaches, most of us would like to think that we will live out our lives in our own homes, relaxing in our favorite easy chair, enjoying time with family and friends. Aging Services programs are geared to help you do just that! Whether you need help with bathing and dressing, or with preparing your food, or a ride to the doctor’s office—even assistance in finding a second career—you will find that HHSA’s Aging Services staff are knowledgeable about the broad array of services available to you, and they are eager to help you get the assistance you need to be able to enjoy living in your own home for as long as possible.
A majority of Aging Services programs are delivered by the Kings/Tulare Area Agency on Aging (K/T AAA), which was created in 1965 to be the leading local authority and advocate for issues and concerns facing adults as they age. Intended to serve the most economically and socially at risk, K/T AAA coordinates a wide range of community-based services in both counties to address the variety of needs that develop with age.
For starters, the K/T AAA maintains an Information, Assistance, and Referral staff that is trained to help you find answers and solutions to your questions and problems. They can help you locate community resources or find out about government benefits, assist you in completing and understanding forms, and connect you with other organizations that can help you out.
Perhaps you are getting older but not quite ready to leave the working world behind. Are you 55+ and in need of job training? Do you need to brush up on your job search techniques? Polish up that resume? If you meet eligibility requirements, the Senior Employment & Training program offers temporary, part-time training opportunities in such settings as nonprofit businesses or government agencies. In addition to on-site training, participants receive a full range of job search techniques, employment contacts, and placement assistance to enable them to find permanent employment.
Maybe you are about to turn 65 and are wondering about Medicare. How do you sign up? Which parts do you need—A, B, C, D? For residents age 60 or older, there is a program to help you find the health insurance plan that best fits your needs: the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). HICAP can help you figure that out, as well as answer your questions on prescription drug coverage and eligibility rules. They can even help you file an appeal or challenge a denial of service and advise you on long-term-care insurance. HICAP services are free of charge and are available at several locations throughout the two counties.
If getting around your home safely becomes challenging, the Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP) can help out by installing grab bars, ramps, medication monitors, and other safety features in your home. When you need assistance with everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, taking your medications, or cooking dinner, programs like MSSP and IHSS (In-Home Supportive Services) can help you find a caregiver to assist you with those tasks, in addition to running errands and doing grocery shopping, as needed. IHSS helps you through the process of hiring a caregiver and then pays that person to provide these services (income guidelines apply).
Suppose, however, that you are the caregiver for your elderly parent—but you also have a job and your own children to care for. This can spell stress, with a capital S! Fortunately, there are options that can help lighten your load and make it easier for you to provide the best possible care for your loved one. The Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) provides information about and connection to services you can use, such as support groups, counseling, caregiver training, and respite care for your parent that will allow you to have some time to yourself to rejuvenate and recharge.
One important aspect of healthy aging is the opportunity for socialization with peers. To help seniors alleviate loneliness and maintain healthy eating habits, the K/T AAA provides services at 12 senior centers in Tulare and Kings Counties, where special programs, classes, games, and nutritional counseling are available, in addition to nutritious meals. (Spouses of any age are also welcome!) For seniors who are homebound and cannot cook for themselves, nutritious meals are provided through the Home-Delivered Meals program. Both programs request a small donation per meal, but it is not a requirement.
By enabling frail seniors to live comfortably and safely in their own homes, these services not only enhance the quality of their lives but also reduce potential costs for care by decreasing the need for institutionalization. Sometimes, however, placement in a nursing home or assisted-living facility becomes necessary. Not to worry—K/T AAA has still got you covered! Should any issues arise in regard to your care or that of your loved one, the Ombudsman Program is there to help. The ombudsman exists to promote the interests, rights, and well-being of facility residents and acts on their behalf when issues arise regarding treatment or care. Ombudsmen visit the residents in their facilities to look into their concerns and provide support and assistance in resolving them. They can provide residents, family members, friends, and caregivers with information regarding admission, resident care, rights, relocation, abuse, and many other long-term-care issues.
Additionally, the K/T AAA provides legal services for at-risk, low-income members of our senior population. Seniors can receive legal advice and counsel regarding issues unique to older adults. For example, you might need help creating an Advance Health Care Directive; you may need advice on avoiding scams or dealing with a bankruptcy; perhaps you’re having problems with your landlord and need to know your rights as a tenant. The Legal Services program provides access to attorneys free of charge to help you deal with these and many other legal issues.
Finally, although age is not a consideration, programs for veterans are also available under the umbrella of Aging Services. The Veterans Services office is dedicated to serving Tulare County veterans and their families. Many veterans are unaware of the services and benefits they could be receiving, and others need help to understand the paperwork required to file claims. Staff at the Veterans Services office can make the process of obtaining benefits easier for you and can help you through the appeal process if you’ve been denied benefits. Information on health care options, home loans, life insurance, rehabilitation programs, death pensions, and burial benefits is also available.
Since the process of aging inevitably catches up with each one of us, it’s important to remember that we are not alone—that there are services available that can help us maintain our health and well-being, find meaningful activities, tackle any challenges that may arise—in sum, to age gracefully.