What is available to help the many seniors who live in Florida as they age in place, often away from family members living elsewhere?
Florida and some other “sunshine” states are a bit unique in the “age wave”. There is much talk of the aging Baby Boomer population and how we will manage the healthcare and other needs of this aging population. There is also a lot of speculation about how Boomers will live out their later years and perhaps initiate (demand?) big changes in elder care. For those of us living and working in Florida, our population numbers already mirror what is to come for the rest of the nation.
So, how has Florida dealt with the needs of its senior population, for elder care assistance and support?
That’s a pretty big question to tackle with a lot of political issues that can be debated. We’ll attempt to give an overview of the elder care system and identify some of the take-away lessons and information that families can use (and perhaps are instructive to other states as they deal with the “age wave”).
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs is the overarching body managing government-related aging services. Under its auspices, there are regional Aging Resource Centers (11 Area Agencies on Aging serving as coordinated points for long-term care services). These operate help lines (which can be accessed by one toll-free number throughout the state) and manage a variety of other programs and functions. Although the Area Agencies on Aging have existed for some time, they were only recently named Aging Resource Centers and with that, some changes made to attempt better coordination (more of a “one stop shop”). They have worked towards things like having a coordinated database that can be accessed online, which only makes sense in today’s world and with so many long-distance caregivers searching for elder care help online.
In addition to governmental programs, these resource centers attempt to maintain information on private businesses, other non-profits and services available for elder care. In our area (Pinellas and Pasco counties), there has been a long, strong relationship between these various sectors. This is vital given that a family’s eldercare experience does not exist in silos, but as a comprehensive plan often using a variety of resources.
Outlining all the types of resources for eldercare in Florida (which apply to most areas also) is too extensive for one blog post, but you can get a comprehensive overview in our “Essential Guide to Eldercare” presentation, which we offer free on Aging Wisely’s Facebook page.
What are the important take-aways from Florida’s elder care experiences?
- “It takes a village” (excuse the overused phrase). Entities working in silos cannot effectively meet an elder client’s (and family’s) needs and families need access to a comprehensive array of resources to create a care plan that works.
- Families should get at least a basic understanding of how eldercare resources operate in general and in your state. Our presentation is a great starting point for understanding things like what Medicare covers and does not. This may enable your family to better plan ahead or at least have realistic expectations so you can explore options.
- It takes creativity/innovation to meet elder care needs. This is both true for states as well as families. There is not one easy answer or resource for everyone.
- Families need answers and elder care guidance, not necessarily just more information. We hear this time and time again from families as the reason they value our eldercare consultations and care management assessments. They often have long lists of phone numbers or resources to check out, but they want help knowing what makes sense for their loved one, how to prioritize and which resources are of quality.
- There are unique challenges to providing elder care, so some innovations or ideas that work elsewhere may not be applicable to senior care needs. Florida has tried (and continues to try) a number of different Medicaid Waiver programs, for example, in attempts to meet complex, often costly long-term care needs. As states pilot different programs, it is vital to measure what works and does not. Unfortunately, resources tend to be limited so finding the best solutions is important. If you are interested in this area, do a little research on what your state offers and the data gathered on the programs.
If you are struggling to figure out what elder care resources can help your family, want personal eldercare advice and recommendations, or just have questions, contact us at 727-447-5845.