November is National Home Care and Hospice Month

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Contributing Writer
Dr. Mary Ann Spanos
Director of Office for Aging Services

November is National Home Care and Hospice Month, a time when home care agencies and caregivers across the country raise awareness about the unique and irreplaceable value of health care delivered in the home. Home care empowers clients to take control of their own care while remaining independent and at home, where the majority of Americans prefer to receive health care services. Professional caregivers who work in the home are uniquely devoted to the health and well-being of their clients. The intimate, individualized nature of personalized home care services delivered to a person in their own home by professional care aides (who become like part of the family) is an experience that is unforgettable for the individual, the aides, and the family.

National Home Care Aide Week, which takes place November 10 through 16, is part of the month-long national celebration. This week recognizes dedicated, compassionate caregivers – nurses, home health aides, and personal care aides – who make a significant difference in the lives of home care clients and their families. Their compassion in caring for those who are sick, frail, chronically ill or recovering from an illness or surgery is an inspiration to all of us.

In Chautauqua County, we are very fortunate to have a number of licensed and certified homecare agencies who provide in-home care funded by Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Administration and the Office for Aging Services. Accredited Care, Aftercare Nursing Services, Caregivers, Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care, Chautauqua Opportunities, New Vision Services, Tanglewood, Visiting Nurses Association of WNY and Willcare employ hundreds of direct care workers that serve thousands of Chautauqua County residents. County OFAS case managers and CASA nurses coordinate services for over 800 elderly and disabled clients. County staff work closely with the home care agencies to arrange a number of other services like transportation, home delivered meals, and safety devices in addition to personal care. The combined efforts of our home care agency workers and county workers make it possible for both children and adults with acute and chronic health problems to be at home while they receive services or to remain at home through the end of life. Please join me in thanking all of these professionals for their service to our community.

Earlier this month at the Chautauqua County Home Care Association Annual Dinner, each agency recognized one worker as their outstanding employee of the year. The following employees were honored by their agency for their dedication and exceptional service to their clients. Please join me in thanking Angela Rhodes from Aftercare, Ashlyn Mealy from Caregivers, Mary Jo Bradish from Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care, Tony Mosley from New Vision Services, Cassie Pike from Tanglewood, and Holly VanTassel from Willcare for their outstanding service to older adults and disabled individuals in Chautauqua County. Without the support of these agencies and the dedicated employees who provide care, many older adults and people with disabilities would be unable to live at home.

Care provided in the homes is not only invaluable to the individuals who receive it and it also has been shown to save government money by keeping individuals out of higher cost hospital and nursing home care. Unfortunately, the home care industry is in jeopardy because of a nation-wide shortage of workers and the failure of state and federal government to invest in this critical industry. According to the Association on Aging in New York there are over 16,041 people waiting for in-home care or a service that will help them stay in their homes across the state, 374 of these in Chautauqua County alone. Despite the fact that NY is developing a Master Plan on Aging there is currently no funding being allocated to that plan or to address county OFAS waiting lists for services. If funding is not redirected to these critical services, then many people will not have the option to receive services at home forcing them into facility care.

As we celebrate National Home Care and Hospice Month, I am urging all the citizens of Chautauqua County to reach out to Governor Kathy Hochul and our State lawmakers. Tell them how important receiving care at home is to you and to ask that NY fund aging and long-term care services so that everyone has the option to receive these critical services at home when they need them. Thank you to the NYS Association of Health Care Providers (www.nyshcp.org) for some of the information contained in this article. For more information about direct care worker shortage and about advocacy efforts currently underway in NY, visit Home Care Association of NY website www.hca-nys.org or the Association on Aging in NY website www.agingny.org. As always, contact our NY Connects helpline for more information about local programs and services at (716) 753-4582 or ccnyc@chqgov.com.