PCA helps older adults age in place
By Jay Nachman
The OPTIONS Program, administered locally by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), allows individuals to receive services and supports in their homes. The umbrella of services provided by the OPTIONS Program support aging in place for older adults. And who doesn’t want to live with all the comforts of home?
“Most older adults prefer to remain in the community with their loved ones as independently as possible, in a familiar setting while maintaining as much control over their lives as they can,” said Sean Outen, PCA’s director of long term care options.
May is Older Americans Month, an annual observance by the Administration for Community Living dedicated to highlighting the contributions of older adults to our society. The 2022 theme, “Age My Way,” presents an opportunity for all of us to explore the many ways older adults can remain in and be involved with their communities.
The term “aging in place” describes how older adults can plan to stay in their homes and live independently in their communities for as long as possible. While PCA proudly supports and observes Older Americans Month each May, supporting older adults’ desire to age in place is at the heart of the agency’s mission.
It all begins with a phone call to PCA’s Helpline at 215-765-9040, which is staffed by trained intake and information personnel on weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and available 24/7 for reports of suspected elder abuse and neglect.
“Older adults and their caregivers can call the PCA Helpline to inquire about programs or services that they might be eligible for,” said Shani Gilmore, PCA’s executive administrator of long-term care. “They just call the PCA Helpline. We have staff who are dedicated to direct the appropriate resources to that person, whether it’s scheduling an assessment for long-term care services, mailing printed materials to them, providing a phone number or directing them to a website. People have all different levels of need and the PCA Helpline is there to help meet those needs.”
The OPTIONS Program can provide home-delivered meals; home repairs or modifications; adult daily living services; personal assistant services; personal emergency response systems; and case management, which includes ongoing monitoring and coordination of the services. To become eligible, an individual must be assessed for the need of long-term care services and also must be either financially or clinically ineligible for other medical assistance programs.
In 2021, about 800 older adults used the personal emergency response system and about 4,000 older adults received home-delivered meals through the OPTIONS Program.
“The relationship that the care managers have with the individual in the community is important and vital for maintaining a person’s quality of life,” he said. “Older adults find it rewarding and satisfying that they have a person that they can connect with who can coordinate their services and provide information.”
Beyond OPTIONS, PCA offers a variety of additional community-based services to help older adults remain independent. The aforementioned PCA Helpline can direct consumers to a further array of resources and help, including scheduling an in-home assessment for long-term care services and referring callers to assistance for issues with consumer protection, long-term care planning, landlord/tenant difficulties, and benefits and entitlements problems.
PCA also administers the PA MEDI (formerly APPRISE) program in Philadelphia, which has counselors trained to answer questions about all aspects of Medicare eligibility and enrollment.
Another vital program that PCA provides is support for caregivers of older adults, adults with disabilities and child relatives. PCA’s Caregiver Support Program helps to address the unique challenges facing older adult caregivers.
“Aging in place is important so that the older adults can remain as independent for as long as possible in their current environment safely,” Gilmore said. “That’s what we strive to do: provide access to programs that help them to remain safely in the environment of their choosing while they age. Just because you’re aging does not mean you have to leave your home. Sometimes, the only option for one’s safety is a nursing home or assisted living facility, but there are many other options, depending on the older adult’s situation and level of need.”
Jay Nachman is a freelance writer in Philadelphia who tells stories for a variety of clients.