Aging ~ if it's not your issue... it will be


As you connect with friends and family this holiday season, you may be confronted with an aging loved one's slow decline in health. One of the most difficult decisions for a family to make is determining if an elderly family member can manage living alone. The aging person usually insists they are fine and can live alone. If you have not had to address this issue, most likely you will some day know someone who does. As we age and live longer, financial, legal and health-care and long-term care issues affect families, not just individuals. Most of us are not experts in these areas, but it is important to know whom you can turn to for advice to help your loved ones "age in place" -- that is, live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Families are doing the best they can, but they are struggling between balancing the demands of child care and elder care. We often hear from caregivers and family members who want to know where they can turn for help. Don't forget, family members are caregivers, too. In Arizona, there are eight Area Agencies on Aging. Each area agency advocates, plans, coordinates and develops and delivers home and community-based services. In addition, these agencies provide supportive assistance, accurate information, evidence-based health-promotion programs and local resource connections to their clients. The goal of this aging-service network is to enable older adults to age in place. One of the most useful services adult children can provide for their aging loved ones is information about community resources that are available to enhance their independence. Sometimes just a simple home modification can reduce the risk of accidents and make household activities more comfortable to perform. Emergency-response systems not only can summon emergency help quickly but can increase the feeling of security within the home. The image of "I have fallen and I can't get up" is a reality to many, and knowing that a loved one can get help can make it safe for someone to stay in their own homes. Assistance is also available to transport older adults to a congregate-meal program, adult day care or a doctor's appointment. There are many community resources that are available to help older persons live alone and independently, which can delay institutionalization. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging, and they can help guide you through the aging maze. Each area agency has a help line with trained professionals who conduct initial telephone screenings and provide information and assistance to callers. They may also initiate referrals to a specific department and/or community agencies for elderly and disabled individuals who may be eligible for subsidized services or direct assistance. Information about programs, services and benefits can be provided over the phone, by appointment or by mail. There are many options, and a simple call can help families make informed decisions to help loved ones age in place.

Jim Murphy and Mary Beals Luedtka are co-chairs of the Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging. For more information, visit

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