Most of us know or have known someone who experienced a crisis. Unfortunately, financial and health crises are a common occurrence. And that adage, “accidents happen?” Yes, they do! In the blink of an eye, one of us or someone we care about can fall and break a hip or become a caregiver to a loved one or … you name it! The question I want to pose to each older person, friend, family member, or caregiver is this: Do you know where to turn when you need help?
In a true emergency, when your life may be in danger, most of us know to call 911. Depending on the situation, 911 operators dispatch police or fire. Help is only minutes away.
But who do you call when your life isn’t in immediate danger, but your circumstances are dire? And who do you call when you are wondering how to avoid dire circumstances? Who do you call when you just don’t know who to call? Where do you go when you need to know?
Community Living Connections
For older people, adults with disabilities, and caregivers, the answer is Community Living Connections. It’s a network of service providers that Aging and Disability Services—as the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County—coordinates and funds to provide easy access to a caring, highly trained advocate who can provide information and individual consultation about programs, benefits, and service options to callers, caregivers, family members, and others. This free, confidential service is available by phone and in person via a network of community partners.
You can access most aging and disability services in Seattle-King County by contacting Community Living Connections. During normal business hours, call (toll-free) 844-348-5464. Outside of business hours, call Crisis Connections (toll-free) 866-427-4747. For general information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.communitylivingconnections.org.
The following list includes some of the core services to which Community Living Connections can connect you, funded through Aging and Disability Services:
- Caregiver Support Programs—We help unpaid primary caregivers (typically spouses, adult children, or close friends or neighbors) of adults age 18 and older reduce stress and maintain their own quality of life, which enables care receivers to remain at home and independent. Caregivers experience a great deal of stress and too often do not request help until they are in crisis. Caregiver advocates interview caregivers to better understand their situation, and then provide information, training and/or referrals to appropriate services and supports. Respite care is available on a sliding fee scale. There is no income eligibility requirement for caregiver support services; however, low-income care receivers may be eligible for additional services.
- In-Home Services and Supports—Our Case Management Program helps older adults live independently by providing social work services to individuals with significant health and social needs. Case managers help clients maintain stability and avoid displacement, including evictions. A wide range of services and supports are available, including in-home personal care, chore services, counseling, nutrition, and medical equipment, which enable residents to live as self-sufficiently as possible and avoid unnecessary relocation to costlier long-term care environments. Nurse consultants provide high-risk clients with appropriate services and coordinate with health care professionals. Most case management clients are Medicaid recipients who are unable to perform two or more “activities of daily living” (e.g., personal hygiene, continence management, dressing, feeding, mobility). Eligibility is determined by Washington State DSHS Home and Community Services (age 18–59) or Community Living Connections (age 60+).
- Access to Food—We fund nutrition programs that help people age 60+ meet their basic dietary needs. Programs include meals served at community sites, home-delivered meals (“Meals on Wheels”), and emergency meals, as well as nutrition education and programs that combine culturally appropriate physical fitness and food. Call for options and locations.
Community Living Connections can make those connections happen for you.
Partnerships with first responders
I also want to highlight services that we provide in collaboration with first responders:
- Vulnerable Adult Program—Aging and Disability Services collaborates with the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Police Department, King County Public Health Emergency Medical Services division, Adult Protective Services, Seattle area hospitals, and others to improve the identification of adults at risk for abuse and self-neglect, connect them with resources needed for stability, increase care coordination and communication among agencies serving them, and improve health outcomes. Emphasis is on identifying individuals who have not previously received services. Two dedicated ADS case managers help connect vulnerable adults with services and supports needed for stability and provide feedback to reporting agencies.
- Low Acuity Alarm Program—Aging and Disability Services partners with Seattle Fire Department to provide services to individuals calling with lower acuity complaints (e.g., calls for service that do not present an immediate danger to life, health, or property). One dedicated ADS case manager engages with high-utilizing individuals and provides education, training, and resources for high-utilizing locations such as shelters, assisted living facilities, medical clinics, and senior living communities. For more information, contact the SFD Low Acuity Alarm Program at 206-233-7109.
- Elder Abuse Prevention Program—Aging and Disability Services works closely with medics, fire fighters, police, and the county prosecuting attorney’s office to improve outcomes for Seattle-King County residents age 60+ who are abused, neglected, and/or exploited by someone they trust. This includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. One dedicated ADS case manager coordinates the services and supports needed to ensure safety and stability.
Note: If you suspect criminal activity against a vulnerable adult is occurring or has occurred, do two things: 1) report the crime to the police by calling 911; and 2) report the crime to the Washington State abuse hotline: 1-866-EndHarm (1-866-363-4276).
Back to this notion of who do you call when you don’t know who to call … sometimes depression interferes with our ability to make even simple decisions. The problem is more than knowing who to call. Aging and Disability Services offers a no-cost, in-home counseling service called Program to Encourage Active and Rewarding Lives (PEARLS) that helps military veterans age 55+ and spouses and spouse survivors who feel lost, lonely, or sad identify goals and work toward solutions. PEARLS counseling may be provided in addition to other veteran and non-veteran services. For more information, contact Suzet Tave (206-615-0533 or Suzet.Tave@seattle.gov) at your earliest opportunity.
All these programs have helped resolve or avoid crises, time and time again. It’s important to remember that help is available—at no cost to you—and sometimes even a little bit of help makes a world of difference. You don’t even need to be able to define the problem—just make the call. Community Living Connections can help.
Contributor Cathy Knight directs Aging and Disability Services, a division of the Seattle Human Services Department that is designated as the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. Since 1973, every U.S. resident has had access to Area Agency on Aging services, as authorized by the federal Older Americans Act and funded by federal, state, and local governments. Washington state has 13 Area Agencies on Aging.