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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. For the first edition, we are focusing on the Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County's Model for Alzheimer's/Dementia Services (MAS) program. The agency was a 2019 Aging Innovations Award winner in the Caregiving category.

The MAS program was created by the Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County (AAATC) to address the needs of individuals living in the community who are at high risk for or who have developed Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. MAS expands AAATC's existing dementia-capable services and supports to minorities and increases access to culturally sensitive, evidence-based support services for unserved and underserved populations and their caregivers.
 
AAATC believes that one of the most successful aspects of the MAS program has been the ability to identify and serve underserved older adults who live alone with dementia. The AAA reports that it has provided person-centered Dementia Options Counseling to 182 people living alone in the Fort Worth area who have Alzheimer's or a dementia related disease and/or their caregivers and connected them to additional services. The program has also provided meals or diabetes counseling to 628 people living alone with dementia.
 
The MAS program allowed AAATC to significantly increase the services it provides to underserved populations. For example, the AAATC MAS team increased services to African American caregivers by 12.5 percent and African American care recipients by 10.7 percent. In addition, the AAATC MAS team increased services to Hispanic caregivers by 10.6 percent and Hispanic care recipients by 10.8 percent.
 
Another unique aspect of AAATC's MAS program is that it enables the agency to provide caregivers with the Options Counseling/Person-Centered Plan that it provides to the patients. By sharing the plan with caregivers, the AAA learns and discusses goals caregivers have for the program participants. Caregivers are also able to make informed choices regarding support services and plan for future long-term support services without regard to income or assets. Sheila Murray, an Options Counselor working with the AAA, calls the process “satisfying” because the monthly check-in calls enable her and other Options Counselors to see progress made toward accomplishing their goals.
 
The below case study illustrates the impact the AAATC's MAS program has made on the life of Marianne, an older adult living with dementia.  

Cassie, 41, is the primary caregiver for her 90-year-old grandmother Marianne, who is living with dementia and experiences moderate memory loss and hallucinations. Cassie needed help with deciding how to provide the services Marianne needed while accessing short-term supportive services and making plans for Marianne's long-term care. Cassie received Dementia Options Counseling through the MAS Program, which provided her with guidance that enabled her to create a long-term plan and access community services. The program also provided Cassie with consistent support from the Dementia Counselor who kept her on track. Cassie was able to work with AAATC to receive respite services, which allow her to handle personal activities. The program also connected Cassie to services that installed grab bars and handrails to keep her grandmother safe and provided her with durable medical equipment.
 
The program has greatly improved the lives older adults living with dementia and their caregivers. Whether it be by contacting older adults who live alone, helping underserved populations of older adults or creating a relationship with Options Counselors, the program has made a measurable difference in the lives of older adults living with dementia.  
 
To learn more about the Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County's MAS program, contact the Director, Don Smith, at don.smith@unitedwaytarrant.org.
 
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community!

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