April 15, 2021

Family Resource Series: Interview with Cyndee Pierce of AACOG

Loved my discussion with Cyndee Pierce, Caregiver Services Coordinator at Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG). Her and her team are an incredible resource in the community. We go in depth about the services they offer and how to get enrolled in the programs.

You can contact AACOG’s programs by calling the Alamo Service Connection at 210-477-3275 or the website: https://www.aacog.com/


Ryan:          Hello, it’s Ryan McGuire with Griswold Home Care. And I’m here with Cyndee Pierce from Alamo Area Council of Governments, I guess. You’ll learn a little bit more of the structure of AACOG and the resources that they provide. She’s a caregiver service coordinator there, and we’re really excited to have her here. So welcome Cindy.

Cyndee:       So, thank you, Ryan. It’s nice to be here and hopefully be able to educate about what our services over here and what we all are trying to do and get accomplished in the communities.

Ryan:          I know a lot of healthcare professionals and families even generally know about the area agency on aging and AACOG and some of the services that you can provide, but do you mind just giving us an overview of you know, what AACOG is, what the AAA is and how you work together, or are they part of the same organization?

Cyndee:       You bet. So it’s kind of like a great big umbrella. So AACOG is Alamo Area Council of Governments and under that umbrella, there are lots and lots of different types of programs, weatherization, veteran programs, transportation programs, also aging programs. So we do house two area agencies on aging. We do one that covers all of Bear County it’s quite populated. So we have our own for Bear County. And then our 12 surrounding rural counties are all grouped together under Alamo Area Agencies on Aging. So all together our services are provided in aging, our services are provided to a total of 13 counties. So we do cover a very large land mass and a lot of folks over here.

Ryan:          Yeah, absolutely. And your specific focus is the caregivers and caregiver support. Do you mind just maybe just giving kind of a quick overview of what your services are, what you all mainly focus on.

Cyndee:       So, like Ryan mentioned, I am the coordinator for caregiver services. So we’re offering that supportive services to that informal caregiver. They’re an unpaid unprofessional caregiver. And what that is then is basically it’s, you know, a designation we give ourselves that I’ve provided some assistance for someone that I care about. Usually a family member, does not have to be, it can be a neighbor that is providing this caregiver role for the care recipient, that’s what we call them. So all of our focus for the most is providing those services to the individual to help keep them safely at home. That’s our goal is to keep them safe in the home. And so all of our services kind of focus around that. Probably the biggest referral that we get from caregivers is looking for that respite. And what that is, is that getting a little bit of a break.

Caregiving can be 24 seven. It doesn’t have to be, but a lot of times it is, and that causes a lot of stress and anxieties and we’re tired and we need to be able to be rested in order to be the best caregiver that we can be. We have to look out for ourselves as well. And so respite offers that to the caregiver and we have a couple of different ways that that can be delivered to the caregiver. We do have contracted providers that bring care into the home, so that can look like, you know, a couple of hours a day for two or three days of the week. And then that service can last, you know, about eight weeks is kind of our typical timeframe that we look at. So our services are just a short-term answer. We’re not the long-term ongoing answer, but we can provide a little bit of service in there.

Once things really start opening up again, we also are able to offer this respite in the form of adult day activity centers. They kind of, you know, got shut down for a while, but things are starting to open back up again at limited capacities. And so we’re able to pay for that adult day activities center for a period of time as well. So that’s the one that usually gets requested the most. The other types of services that we are able to offer are some income support, and that is in typically in the form of helping with utility payments. Right now we have extra funding due to the Cares Act and the stimulus packages that are provided out there. And we’re able to offer assistance with payments of mortgages and rent. And we do have a cap on what we are able to spend, but we have that discussion with the caregiver, once we have that referral

Then also health maintenance items. So anything that your insurance will not cover and typically insurances don’t cover things like the nutritional drinks or incontinent supplies is. So those are some of our biggest health maintenance requested items. And we can [inaudible 05:24] a very large one-time order per fiscal year. Some of the other things we’re able to do is get those safety bars added into the bathroom, maybe a hand rail at the front door, back door. So those safety pieces. We do have enough funding typically speaking each fiscal year to be able to do a limited number of ramps. They are kind of costly. So we do some of those though. We are really able to do that.

Sometimes we are able to get in like a raised toilet, if that makes it a little bit easier in the bathroom. Yes, that kind of thing. Then for the caregiver themselves, so all these services are supposed to really be for the care recipient, that loved when you’re caring for. The caregiver, we do have a couple of services that are directed just for them and one of them is mental health counseling. So we do offer I think, we can pay up to for like eight one hour sessions on that. And that is strictly for the caregiver. We are thrilled that we’re able to offer that. The other piece that we do offer strictly for the caregiver is that caregiver education and training piece. And we’re very excited. We’ve kind of expanded those services with some contracted vendors. And we love the fact that we’re able to offer that because that just really empowers that caregiver and makes them feel much more comfortable in that journey they’re on.

Ryan:          Yes, that’s great. I think some of the audience may know that we, I have an organization outward care that is a provider for y’all and the caregiver education and training piece. And I mean, y’all just offer so much for the family caregivers. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I think it’s important that we talk, it helps spread the word is we really want families to know the resources that are here and for the healthcare professionals as well. It’s a great place to send families for support. You know specifically all the wide ranging services and what are the qualifications, did you mention this earlier? Like who qualifies, because a lot of people think there’s a big financial requirement or something like that, but I want you to expand a little bit on the qualifications.

Cyndee:       We do get confused with the state services, the Medicaid, and that is not at all our agency. They are that long term answer if you qualify through them. And also through them, their qualifications are very much based on income and countable assets. Over here at the Area Agencies on Aging, the only requirement is an age requirement. So if you yourself are calling in for services, you would need to be 60 years of age and older. As a caregiver calling in to get services going for a loved one, the caregiver needs to be an adult. And like I mentioned before, they need to be that unpaid informal caregiver, not a professional that doesn’t qualify as a caregiver according to our funding. And so they need to be giving care to someone who is 60 years of age and older with the exception of if that person has a diagnosis of a dementia. So we all know that that can come on much earlier than 60. And so if that diagnosis is present, then we’re able to assist in the caregiver program with a much younger individual.

Ryan:          So, if you were an adult child, maybe in their forties is caring for a mom or dad that is in the sixties, so meets the age requirement, then they can still receive character education training or respite, that kind of thing.

Cyndee:       Yes, definitely.

Ryan:          Very good. And is there a question or like a common misconception that you get that you feel, that you hear a lot from families or community that you really want to answer?

Cyndee:       Well, again, I think I kind of addressed it just briefly. We do get confused with state services and that is not what we are. Unfortunately, we’re much easier to access those services because we don’t require income or special insurances or anything like that. But because we are easier to access, we do only offer a limited amount of services to folks. And when I say that that’s per fiscal year and our fiscal year begins October 1 and goes through September 30th. So you basically are able to access those services, let’s say respite once during that fiscal year of ours, and then you’re eligible to get that again the following year. And we are able only to do it that one time. And I know that kind of frustrates folks, they get, you know, in the groove of getting that assistance. And we talk with them during our case management piece, like, okay, we’re here for a little while, but let’s look at what your long-term plan could be for your family.

Ryan:          Great. Okay, very good. That’s really good information. Good clarification I think on that point as well. Kind of understanding where you all fit in versus some other state programs I think is really important. And what is the best way for people to connect with you with your team and get these services going?

Cyndee:       So, there is a process to this and that begins with as far as any of our aging programs begins in our call center and that’s the Alamo Service Connection. You do need to make a call into them. And do you want me just to tell you the number?

Ryan:          Yes, put the number in and then I’ll also when we transcribe it, I’ll make sure it’s in there.

Cyndee:       Perfect. So they Alamo Service Connection is our call center. Their phone number locally in San Antonio is (210) 477-3275 and then a toll free number is, and I’m going to need this look at this 866-231-4922. So either we get you into the call center that agent is going to do a brief intake with you and get just a little bit of information about the caregiver and the care recipient. You will be put on a referral list from there and then as our care specialists work through their client list assignments, then they will get to you and call you and do a more in-depth intake and an assessment of both your needs as a caregiver and also the needs of your loved one.

Ryan:          Very good. And I think that’s important to know is, you know, for the families, when they’re calling is, just be patient. It does take a couple steps to get through and get the authorizations and have the providers, at the end contact you and get services started, but stay with it because it’s worth it.

Cyndee:       And Ryan, I do want to kind of throw this out there. We are noticing more and more, you know, we are always having conversations with our seniors to be so diligent about spam calls and being taken advantage of. So it’s very important because you’re going to be receiving phone calls from several different folks, trained to arrange these services for you to either answer your phone or have an available voice message and listen to those and return those calls. We have such a high volume here that we do need to get those return calls, because we can’t keep circling around and around and not getting anywhere with the referrals. It is important and I know we’re all trying to be very, very careful with those spam calls, but we do need to answer the phone or at least listen to your voice messages.

Ryan:          That’s important. I’ve actually noticed from the provider side that families have been better at answering the calls. So, maybe all the mentioning.

Cyndee:       We pitch it.

Ryan:          That’s very good. All right. Well, I think you’ve just done a tremendous job of answering some basic questions and explaining what services you offer to families and healthcare professionals know what kind of services that they can refer over. So that’s pretty much all I have. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for what you do in the community. You know, I talk to families all the time and they’re like AACOG has been a lifesaver for us. So thanks a lot.

Cyndee:       Glad to hear that. I’m glad we just want to help spread the world word about who we are and that we’re here to offer that support service. You know, we’re all about trying to help the aging community.

Ryan:          That’s great. All right. Well thanks so much, Cindy.

Cyndee:       Thank you.