Fairbanks-based ADRC serves vast northern area

Alaska's vast geographic space dictates more than its beauty. In the case of the statewide Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) it determines access and the providing of services for Alaskans with disabilities and for seniors and caregivers seeking long term support in their community.

From Cantwell to the south and Utqiagvik to the north, Galena to the west and Northway to the east, ADRC North operates out of Fairbanks Senior Center and strives to match individuals living in the Interior and northern Alaska with community resources that allow them to age in the way that feels most comfortable to them.

"Our bread and butter is education and connecting people to local resources," said Beth Grey, Project Manager at ADRC North. "Some people know what they want, whether that's a supportive living situation or an assisted living situation. Others want to stay at home. Our goal is to let people live at home if they want to or help them

make an informed choice if they don't."

The first step in utilizing the resources at ADRC North takes a simple phone call to set up an appointment for an intake and options counseling. The intake portion requires an ID, Social Security card, health insurance or any other pertinent documents that will ensure a productive appointment. Options counseling or individualized resource consultations give persons with disabilities, seniors and caregivers a chance to sit down with an ADRC North staff member and discuss each individual's unique needs.

"We don't just support individuals, we also support their families and caregivers," said Grey. "Whoever that person's caregiver is, we want to connect them with resources. Respite services give caregivers time off, so they can do what they need to do, whether that's taking a nap or a long bath, uninterrupted."

Other walk-in services at ADRC North include assistance with filling out applications for Medicaid and other home- and community-based grant waivers or making phone calls to Social Security, Medicare and the like.

"Tackling tasks like those together sometimes gives people that extra encouragement to get it done," said Grey.

Can't make it to the ADRC North office for appointments or walk-in services? ADRC North staff frequently travel anywhere along the Fairbanks road systems, including hospitals, long term care facilities and home visits. For those that live in more remote areas, intake and options counseling appointments can be conducted over the phone, although ADRC North staff make it a point to visit rural areas whenever possible, flying out to larger towns like Tok or Barrow and accompanying Alaska Health Fair staff as they make their rounds through the region.

"Services are harder to get in rural Alaska, and that's one of the areas we need to grow in," said Grey. "Living off the road system means that you have to be more prepared as everything is at a slower pace and more complex. Some places offer the same services as a more urban area like Fairbanks, but are available on a more limited basis. If you have a condition that requires constant care, you might have to make more choices."

Grey also points out that technological developments like telemedicine allow patients to videoconference doctors from miles away. On the other hand, the best care for individuals in isolated areas often comes from generations of close knit community members looking out for one another.

"Sometimes in smaller communities, if you think you haven't seen someone in a while, you go and check on them. You might drop by someone's house with a pot of soup or have your nephews clear the snow off someone's roof if they're not able to do it for themselves, performing a casual type of incidental care that is usually more hired in urban communities."

Back in Fairbanks, ADRC North's office is conveniently housed in Fairbanks Senior Center, sharing the building with other senior services including Meals on Wheels, Senior Companions, Helping Hands Home Modifications and Aging at Home Fairbanks.

"Operating out of Fairbanks Senior Center provides us with an almost instant network of care," said Grey. "Sometimes 'network' is used to describe electronics, but we really mean it as a safety net, as in, we create this kind of care that keeps people from falling. We help support them so they can stay at home and be independent."

Visit ADRC North online at http://www.adrcnorth.org or call 907-452-2551 to schedule an intake and options counseling appointment.