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Strategic Plan Needed to Care for Aging Texas Population

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Eddie Orum, a caregiver for his aunt and his mother, says he struggled to make sense of various government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. He helped AARP advocate for a new aging coordinating council that will help older Texans navigate the different agencies and programs.
Brandon Thibodeaux

Eddie Orum understands the challenges of accessing different public services for older Texans. The 68-year-old retired high school principal from Houston cares for his 90-year-old aunt, who lives with him, and his 91-year-old mother, who lives in an independent living facility.

In his early days of caregiving, he struggled to make sense of various government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. He learned Medicaid could help pay for a care worker for his aunt, but his mother had too many
financial assets to qualify.

It’s information Orum says he wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t been a volunteer for both AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association.

“My concern is for those who don’t know,” he says.

That’s why Orum this year helped AARP successfully advocate for a law to establish the new Statewide Interagency Aging Services Coordinating Council. Its goal: ensure state agencies that provide services to older adults communicate and collaborate with one another.

The council comes at a time when the state’s population is rapidly aging. From 2010 to 2020, the number of Texans 65 and older grew by 51 percent, compared with a 16 percent increase in the overall population, census data shows.

Boomers make up much of the older population growth, notes State Demographer Lloyd Potter. The council may help improve data sharing among providers, with the goal of making it “easier for those individuals who are helping their parents and aging family members to navigate the health care system,” Potter says.

Assessing services

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The growing number of older Texans will increasingly have greater needs related to health care, assisted living, transportation and technology.

An individual may depend on one program to help them afford groceries and on another for transportation to medical appointments.

“We really felt we needed to have better coordination,” says Kathy Green, AARP Texas director of state and federal strategy.

AARP championed the council’s creation. The group will be led by a representative from the state Health and Human Services Commission’s aging services coordination office and include appointees from the governor’s office, six other state agencies and the aging research centers at three Texas public universities.

Council members must be appointed by Jan. 31 of next year and will serve six-year terms. Its first order of business is developing a five-year strategic plan, due in March 2025.

That plan ideally will involve assessing services provided by each agency and identifying where overlaps and gaps exist, says state Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas County), who sponsored the legislation in the state House.

Stay apprised at aarp.org/tx.

Tara Haelle is a writer based in Dallas, Texas.

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