What is an Aging and Disability Resource Specialist?

Americans care about the elderly and disabled in our society and have funded, through both public and private services, many programs to help them adapt to and live independent, meaningful lives in modern society.

But we don’t always make it easy to find those programs, particularly for people who may have limited resources in the first place.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers serve as single points of reference for the elderly, the differently abled, and their family and caregivers to learn more about accessing a wide variety of assistance services available to them. Those centers would grind to a halt without the active and empathic efforts of ADR specialists. They help clients maintain independence and as normal a life as possible in their circumstances. Assistance can help with financial difficulties or to keep clients in their own homes as long as possible.

Something as simple as lining up a free cell phone plan for a person who is otherwise isolated can make a world of difference.

ADRCs also are beginning to tap heavily into the new, scientifically-validated field of applied behavior analysis for solutions for the elderly and disabled. Offering straightforward, proven methods for maintaining independence and adaptation in the wake of common gerontological medical issues such as strokes and dementia. Understanding behavioral therapy options and making referrals to those resources is an increasingly important part of what ADRCs do.

Aging and Disability Resource Specialists (ADRS) are experts who keep tabs on the latest techniques, assistive devices, services, and other resources that can help the elderly or differently abled comfortable, independent, and safe in their daily lives. They can also assist with long-term care planning, incorporating functional abilities of particular clients with their own knowledge of available resources and the progression of common disabilities and diseases to assist clients and their families in making realistic plans.

You might also see ADRS positions listed under titles such as:

  • Healthy Aging Specialist
  • Resource Center Specialist
  • Resource Specialist
  • Information and Resource Specialist
  • Information and Assistance Specialist
  • Options Counselor

Aging and Disability Resource Specialist Job Description

Aging and Disability Resource Specialists roles are usually found with either non-profit social service agencies or in local government.

Many ADR specialists serve as an initial and general point of contact for their agencies, fielding phone calls and information requests from the public on a regular basis.

A key part of the ADRS role is in conducting assessments of elderly or disabled patients, and understanding techniques of functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is one way to incorporate ABA into a traditional comprehensive needs assessment, which covers mental, physical, cultural, environmental, and financial circumstances with life goals to determine appropriate referrals.

Flexibility is important for ADR specialists, who need to be able to engage with and evaluate clients in their own homes and at convenient times. As an ADRS, you may check in with individuals at their jobs or houses, or visit group homes or senior centers to evaluate and consult with groups of people.

After conducting their evaluation, the ADRS will assess the condition of the individual and decide what types of assistance would be most suitable and available, as well as whether or not the person might qualify for subsidized care or specialized programs to offer that assistance. The assistance itself might consist of items such as:

  • Financial aid
  • Assistive devices
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Transportation resources
  • Living facility placements
  • Home health care resources
  • Nutrition assistance programs

With this catalog of possibilities, the ADRS will provide initial options counseling to the individual or their family. In some roles, they will also assist with making applications for the types of assistance that are necessary, and continue to work with that client in an advocacy role to ensure that the aid that is required is actually received.

They can also serve as coordinators, bringing together specialists from multiple agencies and resources from different programs to work together to fulfill a particular need for an individual client’s situation.

Some ADR specialists also may plan and lead community outreach activities to reach vulnerable audiences who might be in need of services, but be unaware of the availability of the ADRC.

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How To Become an Aging and Disability Resource Specialist

ADRS positions are relatively easy to find, but you can improve your ability to fulfill the role by preparing yourself with the right education and preparation.

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become an Aging and Disability Resource Specialist?

Most ADRS jobs require a bachelor’s degree, at the minimum, with many preferring a bachelor’s in social services, nursing, gerontology or related social services field. Some prefer a bachelor’s in social work. However, even some relatively high-paying positions can be found with only a high-school diploma required, assuming you also have requisite experience in the field.

It’s important to ensure that whatever program you choose, you find one that is accredited by the relevant specialty accreditation body for that profession, such as the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for social work degrees, or the Council for Standards in Human Services Education (CSHSE) for human services degrees. Doing so means you can be assured that the skills and knowledge you are being taught are in-line with the latest expectations and developments in the field.

Depending on the population focus of the ADRC you work for, you might also find that fluency in a foreign language is required or useful.

Do I Need a License or Certification to Be an Aging and Disability Resource Specialist?

ADRS’s are not required to be licensed to practice in any state, although some, such as Montana, require a certain short period of specialized training and passing scores on a test in order to be certified for the position, even if working in a volunteer capacity.

Some ADRS positions will also require that you become certified by AIRS, the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems, which offers a Certification for Community Resource Specialist- Aging/Disabilities (CRS- A/D) for practitioners who require a depth of knowledge specific to ADRCs.

Earning the certification requires passing an exam, which you can become eligible to take based on experience in information and referral work:

  • 1 year of experience for bachelor’s holders
  • 2 years of experience for associate’s holders
  • 3 years of experience for high school graduates
  • 4 years of experience for those with no educational qualifications

A few positions might prefer applicants who have been licensed as social workers, at the bachelor’s level, in their state. Requirements for this type of license vary from state to state, but all mandate a degree from a CSWE-accredited program together with certain levels of supervised practice, and passing an exam designed by the Association of Social Work Boards.

Aging and Disability Resource Specialist Salary

A wide range of pay rates can be found for ADRS jobs nationwide, depending greatly on location, specific job tasks, and the type of agency that is employing the worker. The highest salaries are not necessarily found in the positions with the highest requirements; location and employer are larger factors.

Most human services professionals fall into the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Social and Human Service Assistants category, which covers services in a variety of fields including psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. For 2021, the median pay for that job classification came out to $37,610 per year, or $18.08 per hour. Workers in the top ten percent earned more than $59,490 annually.

  • 25th percentile: $30,440
  • 50th percentile: $37,610
  • 75th percentile: $46,960
  • 90th percentile: $59,490

Social and Human Service Assistants earned the highest mean salaries in the following states:

  • District of Columbia: $62,210
  • Connecticut: $51,480
  • California: $48,380
  • North Dakota: $47,140
  • Alaska: $45,590

The top-paying metropolitan areas for Social and Human Service Assistants, according to mean salary, were:

  • Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT: $56,140
  • Danbury, CT: $54,870
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $54,590
  • Norwich-New London-Westerly, CT-RI: $54,120
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $52,500

Whether you choose to become an ADRS as a stepping stone to accumulate experience on your way to other human services roles or find your life calling in helping the disadvantaged with resources and information, it’s a job that is worth doing.

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2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Social and Human Service Assistants reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.