By Lisa Fischer
Watching our parents retire and enjoy their golden years is something we can universally daydream about. But when we see them deal with health issues or cognitive decline, we often feel helpless. Serving those in need, including seniors, is a priority for many, yet we often do not know where to turn.
The first term you might have some familiarity with is the Area Agency on Aging (AAA). According to PayingForSeniorCare.com, this group is the “network of approximately 620 organizations nationwide that serves the elderly population (60+) of their local areas… All AAAs receive federal funding under the Older American Act and most supplement that funding with additional state and local revenues.” Some of those in the state use the name “Area Agency on Aging” or go by another name.
Let’s start with the one in north Arkansas. Executive director Jerry Mitchell says, “We have our office in Harrison, but we serve folks in Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton, Searcy and Washington counties.” He continues, “We provide in-home services and are a home away from home for the frail elderly who can’t be left at home. We provide things like light housekeeping, driving seniors to their doctors’ appointments, and we work five days a week and in some cases seven days a week.” They even have services for adult daycares in the area and the unique offering of 13 housing complexes for seniors. They accept private pay, VA, Medicaid and long-term care insurance.
Similarly, in Central Arkansas, CareLink falls under the umbrella of the Area Agency on Aging. These are 501(c)3 organizations recognized by the IRS. The one goal every agency has in common is keeping seniors at home as long as possible. Sometimes just having someone come in to check on him or her and help with medication and other routine activities can save the senior from going to a long-term care facility.
“The main thing we are known for is Meals on Wheels,” says Randi Metcalf, vice-president of development at CareLink. “We have a beautiful facility in North Little Rock where we cook 900 meals every weekday. Meals are dispatched to homes in Central Arkansas, which includes Little Rock, North Little Rock and Maumelle… Meals on Wheels is need-based for seniors who are homebound and unable to drive.”
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Six counties in Central Arkansas are served by CareLink: Faulkner, Lonoke, Monroe, Saline, Prairie and Pulaski counties. Another segment of the population they serve is lower-income seniors. Their “Urgent Needs” program is a benevolence program that can help with emergency donations for those with financial concerns. “This program makes us advocates for those in need,” Metcalf says.
Barbara Taylor, a community service representative with Home Instead Senior Care, says they provide in-home care assistance, which can allow seniors to remain safe and independent in their own homes. Trained caregivers provide personal care, assistance with the activities of daily living and care and support for both hospice and Alzheimer’s patients. They accept private-pay, long-term care insurance policies and Medicaid.
Kayla Stephens, co-owner of First Choice Senior Care, says they serve Central Arkansas with clients in Conway, Cabot, Benton, Bryant and Little Rock.
“We do in-home non-medical care for seniors,” she says. “We come in and make your meals and run your errands, remind you to take medicine or provide incontinent care. And we even work with hospice for end-of-life care.”
They only take private-pay and long-term care insurance. Stephens says that she has a unique skill as a certified dementia provider — she is known as the “dementia whisperer” and as someone who works with seniors, she is a certified senior advisor. That means she helps seniors and their families navigate the next steps “which often involves medical needs, helping make financial decisions and just about everything else.” As a dementia provider, she educates caregivers and coaches and teaches how to deal with someone with dementia.
Every corner of the state has access to the services of Superior Senior Care. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, seniors in McGehee over to Texarkana up to Rogers and east to Blytheville can use the services, which include light housekeeping, help with meals, transportation, bathing, dressing and grooming. Quincy Hurst, vice president of administration, says they are the oldest privately owned in-home care agency in the state. They opened in 1985 and are headquartered in Hot Springs. Up until just this year, they were in the same office building but finally outgrew that space.
As Arkansas’ senior population continues to grow, the U. S. Census Bureau predicts in 12 years, a quarter of the population in the state will be 60+. With planning and a little help from these “friends,” your loved ones can feel safe and cared for during their golden years.
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By Lisa Fischer