Statewide Funding Increase For OFA Programs Is ‘A Big Win’

Even though winter looks like it still has a hold as we begin April, I can already see signs that spring and summer are just around the corner. Springtime always makes me feel so hopeful about the future and this Spring we have a lot to feel hopeful and excited about!

First I want to thank all the people who took the time in February and March to write letters to our governor and state elected officials about the Office for the Aging budget and the waiting lists for services. We collected over 800 letters from Chautauqua County alone! Your stories about OFA programs and services and how they have helped you stay independent at home were very touching and really resonated with law makers. I am happy to report your efforts made a tremendous difference as they were negotiating the budget. Despite the tight state budget, funding for aging programs increased over $6 million statewide. THIS IS A BIG WIN! Your voice and thoughts really do matter and when everyone pulls together we can make a difference.

I hope if you are as excited about this outcome as I am, you will write another letter to our elected officials thanking them for “Standing up for Older New Yorkers”! We especially need to thank the Chairs of the Aging Committees in the senate and assembly (Sen. Serino and Assemblywoman Lupardo) and of course our own Cathy Young and Andrew Goodell. You can send the letters to OFA and we will happily forward them or call NY Connects for their contact information.

In April we are also beginning a new Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS) called “Carenect” that I am very excited about. Carenect offers peace of mind to customers knowing you can summon assistance whenever it’s needed at the touch of a button. Carenect is available through a collaboration between Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, n4a (our national association) and CST: Link to Life. We have developed this personal monitoring system to provide people with 24/7 monitoring allowing them to summon help whenever you need it. “Every second counts” in an emergency. When you push the button on a PERS unit trained operators will speak with the person through the base unit or pendant to determine the type of assistance needed and contact the right people, whether it is a friend, relative, or emergency personnel.

Carenect, however, is more than an emergency service it is a real time communication care center. Carenect wants clients to push the button for any kind of assistance they might need. Carenect operators are trained social workers who can talk people through a problem or concern or assist them with information on programs and services. This feature is very exciting to me as it empowers people not only to report an emergency, but also to ask for a ride or food, to hear a friendly voice when lonely, to schedule medication reminders, and other non-emergent help that could be critical to their health and wellness. Using the system for non-emergent issues will help clients feel even more comfortable to push their button during an emergency. Carenect Operators work closely with the Office for the Aging staff and NY Connects Operators and help to ensure people are getting to the right services and information at the right time.

Carenect is more affordable than other personal alarms systems since we use the buying power of the county to provide a low monthly rate for anyone living in Chautauqua County. Carenect has three types of units. The basic landline PERS is the most cost effective and includes two-way voice communication with the Care Center, water resistant pendant, programmable activity timers or reminders messages as well as Spanish and English speaking units. Cellular Units do not require a landline to work and have all the features of the basic unit plus. GPS or Mobile PERS is great for seniors on the go or people with cognitive impairment. Cellular triangulation helps to find a client’s location in an emergency. Geo-fencing is another feature of this PERS that can be set to alert when the person has wandered out of a particular area. Additional services including Falls detection pendant and/or second pendants for spouse/companion are available for a nominal fee. With carenect through Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, there is no installation fee, nothing to buy, and no time-contract to sign. If you are unable to afford this service, you may be eligible for a reduced rate or no cost unit through Medicaid, Office for the Aging or Veterans Services. To find out more about carenect or other Personal Emergency Response systems call our NY Connect helpline at 753-4582, 661-7582 or 363-4582.