Area Five Agency on Aging & Community Services Aids Seniors
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
It’s not often discussed, but one of the most difficult aspects of aging is the loneliness that ensues. It’s not unusual for the staff at Area Five Agency on Aging & Community Services, Inc. to get calls from folks who just want someone to talk to.
“The social isolation is a real issue that was here prior to COVID, but is critical and chronic now,” says Steve Gwin, director of programs at Area Five. “Once seniors recognize that their best option is to engage with the senior-care community, they feel better.”
Many of these people need help because they don’t have support outside of the agency. Much of that support revolves around personal, in-home needs such as bathing and health care.
One huge issue seniors face is determining whether to stay in their home. Area Five has long-term health-care providers in every county (in Tipton it’s Encore Lifestyle & Enrichment Center). They have options counselors who are the access point for all in-home services, providing guidance to help with long-term care solutions and supports.
“The options counselors do an assessment to determine what the person can and can’t do, then match them up with services they qualify for,” Gwin says. “A lot of times it’s not the client who is calling to talk to us. It’s their loved ones, and sometimes the loved one’s point of view doesn’t match the senior’s point of view.”
Adult children often want to coach or even speak for their elderly parent, but the team at Area Five honors and respects the client as an adult.
“We want to empower them and educate them as well as everyone else,” Gwin says. “Sometimes that means educating the child too.”
Gwin’s number-one piece of advice to anyone interested in determining if Area Five’s services would be beneficial is to be forthright, honest and transparent about one’s needs.
“It’s a humbling experience, but our options counselors are very compassionate,” Gwin says. “They listen, ask a ton of questions, assess needs, then offer guidance as to best options to pursue, whether that’s through us or another agency.”
Once it’s decided that a senior qualifies for one of their programs where in-home services are covered, the senior is assigned a case manager.
“That person is like your paid best friend,” Gwin says. “They’ll help care for you and arrange in-home health care. They call and check on their senior and the senior can call them. It’s an awesome relationship.”
The Senior Nutrition Program allows seniors over 60 to come to a meal site for food or else participate in the homebound program, similar to Meals on Wheels. Those under 60 can still come and eat for a fee.
“We have a kitchen here in Logansport where we serve about 1,000 meals a day and ship them out to all the counties,” Gwin says.
They serve 11 meal sites, including one in Tipton at Encore and two in Howard County. These home-delivered meals are important for two reasons. First, seniors receive one hot meal per day. Second, it’s a daily wellness check – a way to check in on folks in case they’ve fallen, are injured or are incapacitated.
Area Five offers more than a dozen community services, including the Energy Assistance program, which provides low-income individuals and families with a one-time allotment for heating bills during the winter. Their Guardianship program is all about volunteer advocacy. Each VASIA (volunteer advocate for seniors and incapacitated adults) is a trained volunteer matched with an at-risk adult client to help advocate for their care and needs.
“Elderly people who don’t have families to help manage their bills or medical care can be taken advantage of, so these volunteers are here to help,” Gwin says, noting that the organization works closely with the state courts.
Part of Area Five’s health and wellness education includes PASTA (parenting a second time around), for which they offer support groups for grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren. In addition, they have a geri-fit exercise program to help those over 60 improve their strength, mobility and balance.
Area Five also has people who can help seniors navigate Medicare and Medicaid.
“Health insurance plans can be very scary to seniors,” Gwin says. “Our goal is to educate them to make good decisions, not to make the decisions for them.”
For more information, call 765-675-4746.