Seniors and their family members calling Council on Aging (COA) seeking information will usually get to make the acquaintance of Information and Referral Specialist Rebecca Aliotti, who helps them navigate the often confusing waters of services available for local seniors.
“I’m basically the second point of contact,” Aliotti said. “If the receptionist can’t answer, it comes to me.”
For three years she has been a friendly voice at COA’s Social and Financial Services Department, providing information for a range of services and answering questions about resources available for people facing challenges associated with aging.
“Sometimes it’s a senior calling for the first time because they’ve lost their license and want to know what transportation looks like for them,” she explains. “But often it’s children or friends concerned about someone and to find out what kinds of services there are.”
The service is free to Sonoma County seniors and Aliotti is there to help connect them with COA case managers—who can provide a free home visit to assess the client’s situation and create a care plan—and refer them to additional resources.
Aliotti also helps clients who are 60-plus navigate through the process of applying for funds through Season of Sharing, a program that helps people in emergency situations. The purpose of the fund is to assist families and eligible seniors or disabled individuals to maintain or secure a stable living situation by providing one-time financial assistance.
Dealing with adult children who may be concerned about parents is a common theme to Aliotti’s work, particularly after the holidays, when out-of-state relatives return to distant homes concerned about the welfare of parents.
“I’ll get calls after the holidays from someone saying ‘mom’s 90 and I’m worried about her,’” Aliotti said. “Sometimes it’s just reassuring them it’s okay if they’re alone: if Mom’s says she is okay, she’s okay, and we must respect that.”
Every call is unique, and she can help find in-home care, find answers to fall prevention questions and help find counseling for health insurance.
COA’s Social and Financial Services Department facilitates about 30,000 requests per year, including website inquiries, walk-ins and telephone calls. COA is the agency most referred to for questions on aging through 211, the County information and referral line.
By David Abbott
Sonoma Seniors Today Associate Editor