After touting the Senior HelpLine all these years, it seems like a good idea to find out what actually happens when someone calls 1-800-642-5119. To find out, I called John Barbour, Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA).
Barbour explained that a call is answered at the Agency on Aging office nearest the caller, by a nationally certified professional in referral services. If, for example, you want to know about Meals on Wheels, he/or she will ask for your information and get you set up.
The goal of the people on the other end of the phone is to help you understand your options and connect you with the appropriate service. It could be as simple as your wanting to volunteer in the community, or as complex as choosing the right Medicare Part D plan.
If the call is more complicated, like the need for health insurance, they will take a message and a Health Insurance Counselor will call you. If needed, a referral can be made to an Agency on Aging case manager who can visit you at home and help you apply for the services and benefits you need to live as independently as possible.
Many of the calls the HelpLine receives are related to basic need, such as food, housing options and transportation. Other callers want to know about exercise and healthy aging programs. Increasingly, with more people wanting to remain at home, callers want to know about options for home care.
Suppose you just turned 65 or just retired. Someone can walk you through the choices and options you need to be aware of. Medicare is usually the big question and they have monthly seminars called New to Medicare at CVAA. The Senior HelpLine can direct you to the information source nearest you.
Maybe you need help with living expenses and health care; you might qualify for Medicaid, VPharm, 3SquaresVT, or fuel assistance. Many of the services are restricted to qualifying income, age or health situations, but the local Agencies on Aging can provide information and assistance to anyone, regardless of income or health care needs. If it’s just information you want, you can even call anonymously.
Perhaps you are caring for a loved one or friend. The Senior HelpLine offers a wealth of information and can help caregivers as well as seniors themselves. What if your parent needs assistance, but lives out of Vermont? No problem. “A lot of the caregivers we deal with are out of state, trying to help someone here in Vermont,” says Barbour. “The senior help line is the best place to call because we have the greatest breadth of knowledge about services for seniors.”
The Senior HelpLine can be more helpful than you might think. Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.