12 Common Senior Advocacy Options Explained

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

At times, it can be hard to advocate for appropriate senior care and making sure your voice is heard. Senior advocacy options might seem at first glance to be overwhelming. Who has an older adult’s best interest at heart? To get to the bottom of that question and help you sort out the differences, consider their motive. 

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Plenty of organizations, companies, and websites have great information, but in the end, have a profit motive. However, not all organizations are looking to sell memberships or information. To avoid being drawn in for purposes other than advocacy, it may be easier to stay with established non-profit organizations that have a history of advocating and working with aging adults.

What’s Considered a Senior Advocate Group, Service, or Person?

A senior advocacy group or service offers education, resources, and information to help you find support. Some of these organizations are quite large, while others are local and focus on a small community. They all have value, and by acquainting yourself with the most common ones, you may be able to find what you are looking for. 

Senior advocacy is not just about education and resources. Advocacy work also advances research and policy to improve the lives of older adults and their families. Organizations need funding to carry out their missions, and that research helps to support the value of that funding.

When you find a resource that can assist you and your loved one, it is not by accident. Research, advocacy, and public policy all play a part in making programs and resources available to you and your loved one when you need it.

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List of Common Senior Advocacy Options

Below, we highlight some common advocacy groups and organizations for seniors. Individuals, in certain situations, are also valuable contributors to the well-being of seniors. These options are not listed in order of importance. Each one is important, depending on what you need and when you need it. One particular program or agency might be a gateway to other valuable resources.

1. Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association “leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.” Over five million people live with Alzheimer’s or other dementias in the U.S. alone, and coping with this disease can be frustrating, heartbreaking, and expensive. 

As a result, support, education, and research are all vital parts of managing this disease. Although the Alzheimer’s Association is a national organization, they have local chapters as well that sponsor support groups throughout the country.

2. National Center on Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse is part of the Administration on Aging. It is an advocacy, education, and research program to help recognize and affect public policy on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Adult Protective Services serves as the reporting mechanism for elder abuse in each state. The National Center on Elder Abuse itself provides information on how to recognize signs of abuse. Anyone can report an incident anonymously, as both APS and the National Center on Elder Abuse prioritize the protection of vulnerable adults. 

Most states have requirements for reporting. If you have a loved one you suspect is the victim of abuse or exploitation, it is encouraged that you report it. 

3. National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is the main way to access your local Area Agency on Aging. If you have one in your location, area agencies on aging can help with everything from senior transportation, managing senior centers, to providing meals on wheels, and much more. Most area agencies on aging are also well connected to the community at large and can help you access other resources.

Area Agencies on Aging also administer in-home caregiver programs for low-income, vulnerable adults. Services will vary depending upon where you live. Calling the agency is the best way to determine what is offered and what you might qualify for. 

4. Administration on Aging

The Administration on Aging (AOA) is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The AOA oversees and administers the following programs: Supportive and Caregiver Services, Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services, Long Care Ombudsman, and the Older Americans Act.

The Older Americans Act was passed in 1965 to authorize local authorities to provide social and nutrition services to seniors. This program’s reach and breadth through this act is instrumental in helping countless seniors and their caregivers.

5. AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to empowering people over 50. AARP has over 38 million members, and they have a vast array of information and education for seniors and caregivers. AARP collects a large amount of data through surveys on long term care, health and health care, social security, livable communities, politics and government, and technology. 

AARP also offers free tax aid across the country to qualified seniors as well as driver safety classes.

The AARP Foundation is the charitable arm of the organization to serve America’s poor and isolated seniors. AARP does have affiliations with private companies and advertises those to its members.

6. Case and Care Managers

Case and care managers bring value to seniors in a variety of settings. Case managers work in rehab and hospital settings to assist patients discharging to home or senior care. Case managers advocate for the least restrictive but the safest environment for a patient to move to. They work with patients to achieve their individual goals based on their strengths. 

Care managers work with seniors on an ongoing basis. They advocate for coordinated medical care, assist with housing options, and ensure that all long-term care planning has been completed.

Care managers differ from case managers in that their involvement is not centered only on short term planning. They develop a comprehensive care plan with short and long-term goals.  Care managers stay with their clients for as long as needed. They assist clients with home care, home health, and communication with healthcare providers.

7. National Council on Aging

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) “partners with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to provide innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy.”

One of the great resources available through NCOA is the Benefits Checkup, which allows you to put in your zip code to find financial resources in your area. NCOA covers everything from caregiver support to healthy aging and fall prevention. 

8. Faith-Based Organizations

Faith-based organizations often have programs specifically for older adults. These organizations perform outreach to seniors, provide counseling, caregiver support, food pantries, and more.

Reach out to your local churches to determine what support might be available to you or your loved one. For most of these programs, you do not need to be a church member to participate. 

9. Justice in Aging

Justice in Aging is an organization that fights senior poverty through the law. They train lawyers and others around the country on how to advocate for seniors, and help provide guidance to state and federal agencies to make sure they administer programs fairly to qualified seniors. When necessary, they will litigate issues related to seniors to ensure they get the help and resources they are entitled to. 

10. Family Caregiver Alliance

The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of caregivers and the people they give care to. FCA has a resource center focusing on conditions such as Parkinson’s, dementia, stroke, depression, and ALS. Each condition on the website also has a section on facts and tip sheets for care. FCA also works on research and legislative efforts to improve the lives of caregivers. 

The Family Care Navigator provides a state-by-state guide to non-profit, state, federal, and private resources for caregivers. The map is interactive and allows you to click on your state to find help.

11. American Society on Aging

The American Society on Aging is a professional organization that provides education, training, and information to professionals who work in the field of aging.

Although the organization is not consumer-oriented, it advocates for the continued advancement of professionals who affect policy and practice.  

12. The Ombudsman Program

The long-term care ombudsman program is a critically important program that advocates for seniors living in nursing homes, assisted living, and board and care homes.

Residents in these facilities have rights. The ombudsman program in your state works to resolve issues and problems facing residents in long term care, and ensure that their rights are being protected.

Searching for Senior Advocacy Programs

As you can see, advocacy for seniors is more complicated than it first appears. Without organizations, programs, and individuals to assist seniors, most would have little recourse for help. This is especially true for low-income seniors, but the need for caregiver assistance is growing as well. Many of the organizations listed can provide lots of guidance, as well as information for both caregivers and aging adults.

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