Office For The Aging Topic Of Rotary Meeting

WESTFIELD — MaryAnn Spanos, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging director, was the guest presenter during the July 23 meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville in Westfield. She was welcomed to the session by John “Doc” Hamels, Club President. Hamels was the program’s sponsor.

Spanos earned her bachelor of science in physical therapy through SUNY at Buffalo in 1986, and her doctorate at Boston University in 2005. She worked in geriatric rehabilitation for almost 20 years before she was appointed as the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Director in 2007.

During her tenure as director, Spanos has made it her mission to increase community awareness about the Office for the Aging and to shape programs and services that meet the needs of current and future seniors. She believes that “collaboration with a strong network of community partners is the key to ensuring that our seniors get the right services at the right time, and that they are able to live as independently as possible through the end of life.”

Spanos stated, “Our whole goal is to keep people at home as long as possible. At home is where we all want to be. Nursing homes are very expensive. If you go into a nursing home, it only takes about three months to spend all of your life savings, before you go on Medicaid.”

“Once you’re in a nursing home, you get only $50 per month for all of your personal expenses. That’s not much.”

She continued, “Our number one priority is home and community-based services. We currently provide services to about 1,000 county residents per year. There are now 35,000 county residents who are over the age of 60. Our wait list for home care was up to 450 people. With a funding increase in the NYS budget, our county received $478,000 for our services. We are working to reduce the wait list.”

Spanos described the central intake system named NY Connects, which is a link to long term services and supports for children or adults with disabilities, older adults, family members and caregivers, veterans, and others. Chautauqua County NY Connects may be reached by calling any of the following numbers: Mayville, 716-753-4582; Jamestown, 716-661-7582; or Dunkirk, 716-363-4582. The toll-free number is 1-800-342-9871, and interpretation and translation services are free. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can use NY Relay System 7-1-1. The website is www.nyconnects.ny.gov.

“We make electronic referrals to partners,” Spanos said. “It’s a process. We help people access services that they need. If it’s complicated, we’ll even do a home visit. We work with home care agencies and Meals on Wheels. Services are income-based and are provided through a sliding scale or donation. We are not just for poor people or those who cannot get help in any other way.”

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging provides an array of programs and services as follow: adult day and respite; caregiver support services; elder abuse prevention; employment and training; exercise and wellness; health insurance information (HIICAP) and counseling; housing and home repairs; in-home and community care services; legal and financial; mental health resources; nutrition and meal services; senior safety; and support groups.

Health care proxy service is now managed by the County Office for the Aging. It is an electronic registry to which doctors and local hospitals have access, and it is updated every 18 months or two years. Spanos encouraged everyone to have a health care proxy.

She noted two new programs, which are free and are conducted throughout the county. Spanos said, “Our SHINE or Senior Health in Nutrition Education program is a course led by a dietician that focuses on healthier diet and lifestyle. Our Aging Mastery Program features learning from experts about how to prepare for older adulthood. Discussion topics include legal, financial, health, and others.”