Finding Services Can Be Just a Mouse Click Away

Jul 19, 2005
San Mateo Times

I knew a Bay Area woman who lived alone until she was in her late 80s. Her daughter was a psychotherapist in another state and considered herself very knowledgeable about human behavior and social services. Yet when her mother began to decline, the younger woman found herself flummoxed.

She knew her mother needed at-home help, medical supervision, social support and possibly, psychotherapy. But from a distance of 2,000 miles, the daughter had no idea of where to find the help she needed here, what it would cost or who would provide it. She knew nothing about local services. As far as her mother's care was concerned, she didn't have a clue. Eventually, the woman came to the Bay Area and spent hours calling friends for referrals and starting her search from scratch. She would have benefited from an information source she could access from her home.

San Mateo County residents, blessed with a wide variety of services and resources for seniors and their families, can also feel daunted about finding local help. Where do they start?

Fortunately, locals can check with senior centers or the County Office of Aging and Adult Services for leads or refer to "Help at Home," an annual publication listing services countywide. But the task is time-consuming.

Now, County officials have provided a new tool with information about comprehensive long-term care services and a wide range of educational resources for seniors and people with disabilities. Information is concentrated in one place. And anybody with a computer can use it.

It's a new Web site called The Network of Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities in San Mateo County (www.sanmateo.networkofcare.org/aging). By logging on to it, individuals and organizations anywhere in the world can find information on a variety of services available in the county.

"The Network of Care will be a tremendous asset to our community. It will provide another avenue for seniors and people with disabilities to obtain needed services," said Lisa Mancini, director of San Mateo County's Aging and Adult Services. County officials call the Web site a supplement to existing resources, not a replacement.

Even I can navigate this site. The home page is clearly marked into categories, such as "service directory," "library" and others. "Service directory" provides a comprehensive list of everything you could be looking for regarding senior services. These include adult care, Alzheimer's disease, caregiver, counseling, education, end-of-life care, and many others. Click on the topic you want and get a list of specific services, with contact numbers and description of facilities.

The "library" category provides lists of topics about which you may find articles. There are links to other sites, links to legislation and other topics, and a place for a caregiver to create a file about his or her individual case, using a specially created password.

The Network of Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities is the second site of its kind in San Mateo County. In December 2003, County Mental Health Services launched The Network of Care for Mental Health.

That Web site was so popular that the County Commission on Aging contracted with a private company, Trilogy Integrated Resources LLC, which created the Network of Care site.

In California, 18 counties, including San Mateo, have joined this Network of Care and listed information and referral services for seniors, according to Suzanne Black of Half Moon Bay, chairwoman of the Commission on Aging committee that shepherded the new Web site. It promises to make a difference.

"You could be living in Illinois and look after a relative in any of these counties," Black said.

For more information about the Network of Care, contact Lori Sweeney, Aging and Adult Services Program Services Manager, at 573-2704, or e-mail: lasweeney@co.sanmate