Case workers handle safety net requests, as well as screen for elder abuse. Arab American Family Services (AAFS) has served over 2,000 elderly clients since the development of our Elderly Department in 2003. Each year hundreds of disadvantaged Arab/Muslim and other elderly people request various services from AAFS including help in applying for public benefits, translation and interpretation services, and, in the case of our many immigrant clients, immigration services as well as home-care service. Of all Arab/Muslim-Americans, the elderly are perhaps the most adversely affected by their inability to gain access to community programs and services, often caused by language barriers, lack of knowledge of available resources, anti-Arab discrimination, and many other barriers. Indeed, their adult children often do not know what services are available or how to apply for them. AAFS’ Elderly Department case workers help our elderly clients overcome these barriers in multiple ways and serve these clients with sensitivity and respect for their age, experience, and cultural background.
With the support of a grant from Age Options, we currently have one full-time and one part-time caseworker running the elderly department and serving 600 clients a year. Our caseworkers provide expert case management services in the language understood by the client and a recent client satisfaction survey conducted by the Elderly Department found that 95% of our clients are pleased with the services they received at AAFS. However, our case workers see a growing need among our clients for services that go beyond what one-and-a-half staff members are currently able to offer such a large clientele. These services include mental health counseling, elder abuse services, support groups and social outings, and education on chronic disease management. We also see desperation among many of our elderly client’s caretakers for increased support services to facilitate their care giving. Creating a support group and holding educational workshops for caregivers will improve the care they provide, help alleviate some of the stress they may be experiencing, and will hopefully prevent potential cases of elder abuse.
AAFS provides several different services to elderly Arab/Muslim-Americans living within its service areas. Over the years, more than 600 senior citizens have received the agency’s homemaker services, which include home-based care, cooking, feeding, and cleaning, as well as information on and access to its educational programs and workshops, assistance in obtaining health services, accompaniment and help with mobility, case management assistance in securing public benefits, and other support services. All elderly services are provided in an age, culturally, and religiously appropriate manner by experienced staff and volunteers. In 2006, AAFS established the Arab-American Elderly Council, which meets regularly to inform the agency about the problems facing the elderly in the community and what resources and solutions can be brought to bear on them.