Last week the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging held the first-ever New York Caregiving and Respite Coalition Conference. Over 120 participants attended the event, which was meant to honor all those family members across the state who provide vital services to their friends and family members in need of New York elder care or disability assistance. Literally hundreds of millions of caregiving hours are provided every year in informal settings by community members who provide anything from around the clock help to periodic aid to seniors and disabled residents. As an AARP report last month revealed, the value of the senior care services provided free of charge dwarfs the total care provided by public bodies, usually via Medicaid. Specifically, the report found that New York coffers alone are saved $3.2 billion because of the work of these friends and family members.
Recognizing the sacrifices made by so many family members was at the heart of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s issuance of a proclamation declaring November as Caregiver Recognition Month. In making the statement at last week’s conference, the Governor explained of family caregivers that “their commitment, generosity and dedication make a profound difference in the lives of others and reflects the best of the Empire State.”
Our New York elder law attorneys know the impact that family caregivers have on the lives on their loved ones–and on the state’s entire elder care system. As the Governor explained in his address, the state estimates that more than 50% of senior New Yorkers would likely be placed in institutional settings without the aid of unpaid caregivers. These nursing homes and other special facilities are rarely the preferred living option of seniors who are almost always happier when they age in place, close to their loved ones.
Conference participants also used the occasion to discuss ways to strengthen the New York State Caregiving and Respite Coalition (NYSCRC). In particular, it is hoped that a stronger and more expansive caregiver support services network can be developed statewide. Ideally this system would increase access to respite services for all those friends and family members who are providing New York senior care informally. Participants also hope to raise awareness of available services for caregivers. Many of those currently helping disabled residents do not know what resources are freely provided to help ease the burden on these volunteers. The New York State Office for the Aging has created and made available a variety of programs, services, and resources, and local residents should visit the office’s Resource Guide to gain access to these helpful materials.
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