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Saunders: Bureau of Aging & Disabilities best kept secret service in Carroll County

It is no secret that the number of adults over the age of 60 in Carroll County is growing at a rapid rate. From a mere 21,770 in 2000 to over 45,000 in 2020 that age group will increase over 100% in just 20 years! And by 2030, just 10 years later, there will be nearly 60,000 over 60 years of age.

With the burgeoning older population comes the need to look carefully at the services and programs offered by Carroll County’s area agency on aging, known as the Bureau of Aging & Disabilities. While many people seem to think that they do not need the services offered at the Bureau or that they do not qualify for such services, many others do not even know that the Bureau exists or what services it offers. What a loss! But what an opportunity to get acquainted with Bureau personnel and what they can do for those of us in our prime and facing health or living crises, adults of any age living with a disability, those with transportation issues, veterans of any age.

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For example, did you know that the Bureau’s Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program, known as SHIP, provides Medicare counseling to all over 60 regardless of income? Trained health insurance counselors can help with Medigap questions, Long Term care questions, and Medicare prescription help with finding the lowest drug costs. Those are services that can benefit all over 60!

Did you know that as the Maryland Access Point for Carroll County that the Bureau staff can identify resources and options for all persons as they age, not just low income people, but for all who wish to age in place? In fact, the Bureau is providing aging and disabilities consultation and support to nonprofits considering the Communities for Life initiative and other Aging in Place initiatives that will assist people who wish to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

Did you know that the Maryland Access Point of the Bureau also offers services to any veteran, at any age, and to dependents and survivors? While filing pension claims and health care claims can be daunting, Veteran Service Officers help prepare and monitor the claims through the system. Many other programs are available to veterans, including a Transportation Shuttle Program to transport veterans to various VA medical sites in Maryland and West Virginia for free.

Did you know that the five senior centers in Carroll County, also run by the Bureau, offer myriad programs: trips, exercise, games, art and needlepoint classes, computer training, movies, dancing, to name a few. Health programs (blood pressure and blood glucose screenings) and educational programs of all kinds, including legal services, caregivers’ services, safe driving classes, money management programs, Carroll Hospice talks, Motor Vehicle Administration information for seniors on the Real ID program, and many more, are all a part of the Senior Centers’ activities. And who could forget the meals that are offered — cheaper and healthier than those at any fast food restaurant — with the added benefits of socialization and often entertainment!

It is thankfully true that there are many programs that come under the Older Americans Act and Federal and State funding that impact lower income folks. It is on the basis of these programs that the Bureau can demonstrate the value of what they provide and thereby keep and increase its funding from year to year. For example, the State funds grants that total over $1M that provide care and resources to keep people out of nursing homes and from becoming a greater financial burden and other grants that subsidize assisted living group homes.

In still other areas, those State grants provide funding for start-up programs and equipment at Senior Centers, and soon the hiring of a registered dietitian to provide nutritional counseling to those identified to be at high nutritional risk and to educate the public on healthier food choices.

It would seem that the Bureau of Aging & Disabilities is a one-stop shop of services and activities. And if the Bureau personnel cannot help with someone’s particular need, they will gladly refer that person to the appropriate agency. The Bureau also partners with other providers to see that needs are met. For example, the Bureau is partnering with Lions Clubs’ durable medical equipment program to provide appropriate devices for those in need. This also demonstrates how Bureau personnel personalize the services of their agency to the needs of the individual. Personalized service is surely a watch-word for the Senior Inclusion Program for persons with developmental disabilities and demonstrates clearly the Bureau’s “holistic” approach in caring for the needs of all.

The Bureau of Aging & Disabilities has recently delivered its Comprehensive Plan of Services for fiscal years 2020-2023 to the State Department of Aging in which Bureau Chief Celene Steckel and her staff have outlined all the programs available at the Bureau. While this short column cannot do justice to all the available programs, it behooves the growing aging population of Carroll County to become familiar with all that is available. What you will find is a plethora of Carroll County’s best kept secret services, many of which you will want to take advantage of as you age.

For more information on any of these services, please call the Bureau of Aging & Disabilities at 410-386-3800.

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. She can be contacted via email at hermines@verizon.net.

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