It can be daunting and emotional securing help for a loved one who needs assisted living. Whether it's old age, dementia, mental health or another form of special needs, the questions come fast and many times are hard to answer.

The fifth annual Disability and Aging Summit at the Special Olympics Center in Anchorage offered solutions to some of those problems and in some cases support for those seeking it.  

Rebecca Marinelli is the care coordination director at Alzheimer's Resource of Alaska. Her job involves helping identify funding sources and matching services.

"There's a lot of different options available in the community and they're not all the same so it really takes knowing what are the special needs are of each person and finding the right care provider for that," she said. 

In Alaska, Marinelli says most funding sources are based off income and go through the Medicaid program.

"We will work with seniors and help them kind of navigate through the system," she said.  

But comprehension of the basics can be difficult, which Marinelli says is a challenge as the state's population is aging.

"All of us would like to stay home and age in place and how do we develop services to make that happen?" said Lizette Stiehr, the executive director of the Alaska Association on Developmental Disabilities. "That's one of the biggest challenges we're facing is how to assure that people get the services that they need in the right place in the least restrictive alternative."   

So how does one get ready to get help? Marinelli says care can be expensive and organization is key. Her advice for families is simple.

"The best way for people to prepare is to actually prepare," she said, adding that knowing about financial assets and resources is crucial too.

"Any program that's going to help with funding is going to want to know what your income is, what your savings is, how much you own," she said.

It's also important to keep good records. Marinelli said every program she's worked with requires some kind of medical documentation. She also said you should communicate basic wants and needs.

Marinelli recently experienced this with her parents. She told her father to decide on the details that are important.

"He called me a few days later and said 'Don't ever let anyone ever put me in a wool sweater,'" she said.

Marinelli's father is allergic to wool.  

"That's not something that once he loses his voice people would know automatically unless he had told them," she said.

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