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By Carol Marak - Aging Matters

The most frequent question asked by older adults and family caregivers: “Where can I find help for my parents/myself about elder care concerns? Sometimes the people asking have money to pay for services and sometimes they have limited income. Either way, several websites and even brick and mortar services do exist for seniors.

Elder care is a complex responsibility, and the long-term care system is hard to navigate. Many caregivers and seniors don’t know the first thing about giving care or the best place to receive advice on it. A reader sent an email to me asking, “Where can I go to receive free legal advice on setting up our health care proxy and advance directives?” It’s the reason for this column since it’s hard to know what a relative needs, where to go to receive help, how to pay for it, and how to deliver better care at home.

Where to begin looking for assistance? Each time, I direct an individual to their local Area Agency on Aging. Sometimes the group is called the Department on Aging.

Here’s what the agency does for seniors and family caregivers:

They are experts on all aspects of aging, and their vision captures the spirit: To help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

Regional offices, named the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) are points of entry into the long-term services and supports (LTSS) system for older adults, people with disabilities, caregivers, veterans, and families. They exist in numerous locations throughout each State.

The resource centers:

Take on a crucial information and referral role and connect families with local providers who can help create a caregiving plan, solve challenges and identify support services.

Provide direct support to caregivers for respite care, individual counseling and support groups, education classes/training; and emergency assistance.

Develop transition strategies with the family to improve planning, transportation, in-home care services, and case management.

Play a significant role in detecting and preventing elder abuse.

Offer programs to help older adults and their caregivers better manage their health.

Coordinates home-based-community services.

The agency is the trusted source of information where people of all incomes and ages can access long-term support options and benefits. They rely on the work of volunteers. If you can donate your time to help people in need, please reach out to your local, regional Area Agency on Aging office, call 1-800-677-1116 or visit

Other resources include, state/county legal aid offices, local Meals on Wheels, community nonprofits that serve seniors, and the state Ombudsman office.

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By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.