WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- More money and programs are needed immediately to help family caregivers provide for the aging population because the situation is critical, Mae Carpenter, commissioner of Westchester County’s Department of Senior Programs and Services, recently told congressional staff members at a panel in Washington, D.C.
During a session on “Innovation and Progress in Long-Term Services and Supports,” Carpenter described what Westchester County has done to meet this serious need and what more must be done.
Carpenter was invited to appear before the panel because of her reputation as one of the most knowledgeable and innovative advocates on behalf of seniors in the country, the county said in a release.
According to Carpenter, the need for more caregivers is dire – and increasing – in Westchester, where one in five people are 60 or older.
However, there often is no family caregiver available to help with aging or disabled relatives, as many women work full time and many adult children have moved away. Those who do care for their loved ones face enormous stress and quickly become overwhelmed and burned out.
As a result, volunteers, neighbors and the seniors themselves must help care for each other.
Carpenter told the congressional staff the county, in conjunction with the Westchester Public/Private Partnership for Aging Services, has developed two initiatives specifically for caregivers that are helping to ease their burden and better face their challenges. The programs, both part of the department’s Livable Communities Initiative, are low-cost because they primarily work through volunteers and already are being replicated in other parts of the country. They are:
- The Caregiver Coach program, where volunteers are trained by professionals to provide one-on-one support to family caregivers to help them understand what options they have.
- The Care Circles of Westchester: Step Forward and Give Back program, with circles of people who volunteer to share caregiving tasks of daily living for an older person in the community that cannot be met with public funds. The idea is to create the physical and emotional support families traditionally provide that seniors are able to continue to live in their homes.
“We need more options to support family caregivers,” she said.
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