Navigating Aging- Choices for Independence

A vast majority of older adults live in their own homes and communities and want to continue to do so. This lifestyle choice is called “aging in place.” However, it is a reality of life that everyone ages differently, and sometimes this means exploring various options for support. Planning ahead can be complicated, needs can change and it is best to try to get an understanding of resources that are available before you or your loved one are in “crisis-mode.” Questions that commonly come up include: What needs to change to continue to remain living at home? What supports exist in the community? If you notice your loved one could use support how do you get started?

The Choices for Independence Program with the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) could be the answer to taking this first step. Often people are unsure of where to turn or where to start looking for help, which can be overwhelming. This is where Carly Whetstone, a Social Worker with Choice for Independence, comes in. She works with families to best understand their options and be made aware of the support systems that exist. She comes alongside the aging loved one and their caregiver to have a person-centered conversation. She will meet with you to discuss your unique situation and provide potential resources to help reach your goals. Because these visits are curated for the client’s unique situation, the social worker can help with estimated costs of programs and finding which will fit best. These serve mostly as educational visits, but referrals to programs are often made by the social worker.

Choice for Independence operates as a one-time consultation to discuss resources in the community. There are no criteria for eligibility other than an individual being over the age of 60 who may be having some difficulty taking care of themselves and has a desire to stay living in their own home. Residents in all nine of the counties in our AAAWM region qualify for a Choices for Independence visit, these counties include Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Osceola. Resources and care options that could be discussed in this meeting range from in-home services like housekeeping, respite care, and home-delivered meals. The individual will leave the visit with an understanding of which options best fit their unique situation.  

As Carly explains of the program, “We work with individuals, understanding they are independent, capable people, who have made their own decisions and determined this life direction for decades. Therefore, special attention is spent making sure the solutions are ones that fit their desired outcomes and current lifestyle.” An example of this could be the following…A woman is needing to move into a nursing home after a bad fall. The husband has relied on his wife as a caregiver for many years and now needs to figure out how to carry on without her living with him. At a Choices for Independence visit, it might be determined that the husband at home qualifies for our Care Management program where he could get hands-on care in his home to assist him when needed. The social worker commonly leaves a list of other possible resources for the individual if he chooses to follow up with them, though the social worker is able to make referrals on his behalf as well.

Currently, Choices for Independence visits are following coronavirus safety precautions. Most consultations are taking place via phone or virtually, however we recognize this could be difficult for some. If you wish to meet in-person with social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines in place, we are happy to do so. If you feel you or your loved one could benefit from a Choices for Independence visit, contact the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at (616) 456-5664 or visit