The process of weaving through red tape to actually get a service started can cause a great deal of anxiety. Service organizations may have a detailed application process, possibly requiring an interview and documentation of medical and financial data. You need to be prepared. The following suggestions are helpful hints for dealing with the social services bureaucracy:

1. Have a pen and note pad ready. Make a separate sheet for each service you try to locate. List the name, telephone number and address of each agency that provides the service. List the name, title, department and telephone number of each person you talk with along with their comments and/or recommendations. Save these notes for future reference.

2. Secure needed information from each agency. Question each agency providing a service you are interested in about hours of operation, fee, and the application process. Find out if there is someone in the agency, such as a social worker, who could assist you with the application process and be assigned to your case. If your relative is extremely weak or frail, some agencies will conduct home visits to complete the application process.

3. If an agency requires an interview, be prepared. Hopefully, you will plan your visit so that you may accompany your relative to necessary interviews. If you are not available, ask someone from your informal support network to go. The person who attends the interview with your relative should be prepared to do the following:

* Find out what documents will be needed.

* Make a list of papers taken to the interview.

* Confirm the appointment a day in advance.

* Take notes during the interview.

* Clarify what is going to happen and what are the older person's and the agency's responsibilities.

Never leave an original document. Allow the agency to make copies. When leaving, review the list of papers brought to the interview and make sure all documents have been returned.

· Keep all important papers together in a folder so that they can be easily located in the future.

4. Send a note to the agency expressing your satisfaction or dissatisfaction. A simple note to an organization can really make a difference. If a worker was particularly helpful, a thank-you note will be greatly appreciated and may cause that person to pay closer attention to your relative's well-being. On the other hand, a person who is rude or impolite needs to be reported. You may want to telephone the worker's supervisor and follow up with a letter of complaint to the supervisor as well as the director of the agency.


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