Max B. Rothman, JD, LL.M.

The impact of COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on older adults in our community and, in turn, upon the efforts of the Alliance for Aging to respond to the dramatically increased needs of older adults.

As the Area Agency on Aging for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, the Alliance serves as the administrative hub for $54 million in state and federal funding for home and community-based services. The Alliance is responsible for ensuring program integrity and fiscal accountability among a large network of community service providers who deliver direct services to clients. We accomplish this through a system of competitive awards, program monitoring and oversight, and ongoing technical assistance.

The goal of our system is to enable older adults to “age in place” in their own homes. Elders, particularly those in greatest social and economic need, i.e., those who are low-income, living with disabilities, and living alone, receive home and community-based services that reduce the risk that they will be placed in a nursing home. In fact, the communities served by the Alliance have the lowest rate of Medicaid nursing home utilization in the state.

Our Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) serves as the single point of access for information on services available not only to older adults but also to adults with disabilities, as well as to their caregivers. The ADRC handled over 100,000 calls in 2021. ADRC staff assist clients with eligibility determination for state and federally-funded long-term care programs, and coordinate eligibility for Medicaid Managed Long Term Care.

The SHINE program (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) provides unbiased information and counseling concerning Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance. SHINE volunteers offer free assistance to older adults and young, disabled individuals about their health insurance options. SHINE Volunteers also provide Medicare 101 presentations, attend health fairs, and provide counseling via telephone and in person at partner counseling sites. The Alliance administers the Senior Medicare Patrol program which provides one-on-one assistance and conducts community outreach to Medicare beneficiaries of all ages to assist them to prevent, detect, and report Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse.

Since 2009 the Alliance has received one Innovations Award and 20 Achievement Awards from USAging, our national association, for our cutting-edge programs. The Alliance was recently awarded 3 Aging Achievement Awards from USAging. This year’s winners include the Hospital to Home program, which provides eligible patients discharged from the hospital with time-limited home-based services that minimize the risk of readmission. Live, Learn, and Grow, a virtual seminar series for older adults hosted by a certified geriatric counselor and grief specialist explores topics concerning mental, emotional, and physical health. The Pet Project delivers pet food and pet supplies to qualifying older adults in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties.

Our Office of Planning and Population Health helps achieve the goal of empowering older adults and their caregivers to live active, healthy lives and to improve their mental and physical health status. The Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Prevention program delivers presentations to promote awareness and education regarding elder abuse and ways to prevent them to both professionals and older adults. The Alliance is one of only four area agencies in Florida that manage the Veteran Directed Care Program, which allows veterans with service-related disabilities to remain at home and avoid costly nursing home placement by recruiting and hiring their own caregivers.

In March 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19, congregate meal sites and adult day care centers were closed to protect older adults. Providers delivered all meals to participants’ homes. A new statewide initiative led to the creation of the Restaurant Connection which partnered with area restaurants to supplement meal providers’ capacity for meal delivery to home-bound clients. Because of the effects of isolation on older adults, projects supporting mental health were implemented, including mental health counseling, telephone reassurance, and online support groups.
In order to help reduce loneliness and social isolation, the Alliance contracted with Uniper, a private sector company. The Uniper technology enables older adults to access remote healthcare, leverage preventive care, communicate with family and friends, and participate in live, interactive programming using a TV set.

We will continue to seek new, innovative ways to address the needs of elders in our community and to carry out our mission of promoting and advocating for the optimal quality of life for older adults and their families.