As people get older, they invariably face a host of additional challenges as health problems, financial worries and lifestyle changes become increasingly common. For residents of Northeast Texas communities, the Area Agency on Aging is here to help.

“We’re here to help seniors 60 and older,” Agency Director Lisa Reeve said. “Our primary goal is to help people who need serving to help them stay in their home as long as possible.”

The AAA, which is a branch of the Ark-Tex Council of Governments, offers its services in Bowie, Cass, Morris, Titus, Franklin, Hopkins, Delta, Lamar and Red River counties. The agency provides assistance through a variety of services.

Among those services are care coordinators. Care coordinators work to help elderly who are facing additional hardships, either because they’re recuperating from a recent illness or injury after being discharged from the hospital, are currently hospitalized, are facing extreme economic hardship or lack support from friends or family.

“Say a person just got back from a hospital stay, and they can’t mop or clean their house because they’re still recovering,” Reeve said. “The care coordinator can send someone over to their home to help them clean.”

Care coordinators also can work to provide home-delivered meals, perform tasks such as filling prescriptions, and occasionally perform minor home improvements, such as installing handrails, Reeve said. Care coordinators typically work with people for roughly three to six months, and how long they work with someone is determined on a case-by-case basis.

The AAA also provides services for caregivers.

“If you’re a caretaker for a relative, and let’s say you need a break, we can provide assistance there too,” Reeve said.

In addition to offering respite for overworked caretakers, these assistants also are able to provide information about available services and help the caretakers get in contact with said services.

Also provided by the agency is transportation assistance, Reeve said. Drivers can take qualifying residents to and from destinations, and will also help them to and from the vehicle.

As with the other services, the transportation services are only available to people 60 and older, and also require proof from a doctor that the person can’t walk to the nearest bus stop.

“That could be because of a health factor preventing them from walking, or it could just be that the nearest bus stop isn’t close to their home,” Reeve said.

The service is provided through the TRAX Transportation system, a program of the Ark-Tex Council of Governments. Paris residents are also able to use the Paris Metro, a fixed bus route through the city, Reeve said.

The AAA also provides nutritional services, and serves meals at designated locations throughout its service area, and will deliver meals to people’s homes if needed.

In Lamar County, meals are served at Pshigoda Foundation, located at 2215 East Cherry St., and Paris Retirement Village, at 1400 West Washington St.

For people already in a long-term assisted living facility, the AAA’s long-term care ombudsman will advocate on their behalf and for their wellbeing.

The ombudsman ensures the residents get the level of care they need, identifies and resolves potential concerns, supports resident-directed care and more.

Throughout the agency’s region, the AAA helps roughly 5,000 people, said Ark-Tex COG Executive Director Chris Brown.

Though many of the roles filled by the AAA require proper certification, Brown said the agency also relies heavily on volunteers. However, there’s a distinct need for volunteers, he added.

“Right now we have six volunteers for our nine counties,” he said. “Ideally, we’d like to have closer to 18, so we could have two to a county.

“We’re always looking for additional volunteers, so if you want to volunteer, we can find something for you to do.”

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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