Aging and Disabilities Resource Connection: Georgia’s One-Stop Network

Caregiving for aging parents may stretch one’s budget as well as one’s endurance. That is, if we aren’t aware of scores of federal, state and local government programs that can help make ends meet. Access to assistance is as close as our computer and, in most cases, we can apply online. In today’s blog, Laura Berrios details a valuable resource for the State of Georgia. (From 8/21/17 Atlanta Journal and Constitution)

Where do we go when we need services for an elderly loved one? Mom needs transportation; dad needs help with his meds. They both should move out of that big house, but where are they going to go? It’s enough to send siblings scrambling for answers and resources.

In Georgia, the Aging and Disabilities Resource Connection is the one-stop information network for all those questions.

Since 2004 it has been the main referral source to all services provided through the Area Agencies on Aging, and now has a database of more than 26,000 resources for individuals or family members who are aging or living with a disability. The network is staffed by trained counselors who can assess the need, answer questions, and point we to resources in your area.

The network can be accessed at 1-866-552-4464, or in metro Atlanta at 404-463-3333. We can also go through the assessment and peruse resources online at Counselors provided information, referrals and assessments to 91,004 Georgians in fiscal year 2016.

“They are totally focused on helping you find the best solution to whatever you need,” said Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging. “And it’s conflict-free. The people on the phone are not the providers.”

As Georgia’s older population continues to surge, so does the demand for information on aging options.

Georgia has one of the nation’s fastest-growing older adult populations. The 85-plus age group is expected to increase by 306 percent over the next three decades, according to a study from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. The state’s 60-plus population is expected to grow by 65 percent by 2030.

As the population ages, Floyd said the information referral network could be overwhelmed if improvements are not made in upgraded technology and additional staffing.

To prepare for this, members of the Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s elderly recently voted to place additional network funding as a top legislative priority for 2018. They’ll be asking for $4 million more in the next fiscal state budget so the system can handle the growing database of services and expected call traffic.

The coalition is also asking for an additional $10 million in state funds for the Home and Community Based Services program because so many of these services have long waiting lists.

“This is such a huge need, because at the end of getting information about available resources, we may end up on a waiting list for those resources,” Floyd said.

Last year, an estimated 900 adult Georgians were on a waiting list for services such as home-delivered meals, adult day care, respite care, home modifications and more.These services help delay nursing home care by an average of 50 months, according to state estimates.

Floyd said both of these funding requests work together to keep aging adults and adults with disabilities living independently in their homes as long as possible.

Aging advocates are also rallying behind three legislative priorities for senior adults and plan to bring these issues before lawmakers during the 2018 Georgia General Assembly.

■Medicaid Funded Assisted Living. Changes are needed in Medicaid funding so more seniors can get financial help with daily living assistance, such as eating, taking medications, dressing and bathing. The funding is currently provided through waiver programs that have long waiting lists, said Floyd, and changes in the way Medicaid pays for assisted living could provide access to more facilities and openings for services.

■ Improved Personal Care Home Requirements. Legislation would provide greater sanctions and stiffer fines for personal care homes that put residents at risk because they fail to meet licensing requirements for fire and safety codes. Floyd said the current fines and sanctions amount to a “slap on the wrist” and do little to stop the problem of unsafe homes for the elderly.

■Creation of an Abuse Registry to prevent the hiring of caregivers with a history of abuse.

Co-Age members and other aging advocates will be collaborating through conference calls and workshops over the fall months to flesh out these priorities in advance of the 2018 Georgia General Assembly.

Next month we’ll discuss  7 Government Programs You Can Access for Your Elderly Parents.

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