Nassau, Suffolk elderly on growing wait lists for in-home personal care, meal deliveries, other needed services

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An increasing number of Long Island seniors are languishing on a waiting list for home and community-based services, including medical transportation, meal deliveries and in-home personal care, in part because of a lack of state funding, according to records and elder advocates. The rising backlog statewide of non-Medicaid elder services, which are considered critical in keeping seniors in their homes, is forcing many families to pay out-of-pocket for private services while others are reluctantly entering their loved ones into significantly more expensive nursing homes to obtain long-term support, experts tell Newsday. The debate comes as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed 2025 state budget cuts more than $9 million for home and community-based service senior services. “If these families don’t get the services they requested, they’re put in a very unfortunate circumstance of how they can try to cover the services in the home of their loved one,” said Bill Ferris, AARP New York’s state legislative representative. “And if they can’t cover these services, especially personal care services, they’re left with an unfortunate decision to put their loved one in a nursing home or some other adult care facility.” At the request of Albany lawmakers, the State Office for the Aging recently provided, for the first time, a comprehensive tally of seniors in each county waiting for home and community-based services. In Suffolk County, 293 residents are waiting for case management services to help them navigate the complex labyrinth of systems and programs as of September, the data shows. In addition, 242 Suffolk seniors are waiting for in-home care such as cleaning, meal preparation, grocery shopping, laundry, bathing, dressing and toileting while 163 are waiting for home delivered meals, records show. Suffolk’s county-level waiting list appears to be the second highest in the state, behind the five boroughs of New York City. “As the senior population grows in Suffolk County, we are facing a dangerous shortage of health care and home aides and other critical assistance seniors need to live,” County Executive Edward Romaine said in a statement. “It has become increasingly important that New York State continues to fund these programs. And we will continue to advocate for additional state dollars so that we can care for our senior citizens in the way they deserve.” Suffolk experienced a 32% increase in its 60-and-older population between the 2010 Census and the 2020 Census, increasing the demand for services. Even if funding was full restored, county officials said, the waiting list could persist because of a shortage of home-care workers. The backlog, state records indicate, is better in Nassau County where 105 residents are waiting for case management services; 67 for in-home personal care; 57 for transportation to doctors and grocery stores and 20 for congregate meals served at senior centers that provide the elderly socialization time. Nassau officials did not respond to requests for comment. Home and community-based elder services for individuals who earn above the Medicaid level are funded by the State Office for the Aging and administered by county officials. Advocates note that a senior could be on a waiting list for multiple services simultaneously and that a detailed list of the total number of individuals waiting in each county is not available. The highest demand for care statewide was among 80-year-old women with low income who need help with bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, house cleaning and laundry, AARP found. The backlog, experts said, is a product of a rapidly growing senior population, declining state funding, inflationary cost increases for meals and home delivery services and a mandated wage increase for home-care workers that was funded for Medicaid providers but not the local aging services network. Fully addressing the waiting list will cost the state $42 million, according to calculations from the Association on Aging in New York, an Albany-based group that supports county level senior agencies. “When you look at the overall totality of the budget of the State of New York, eight-tenths of 1% goes to aging services,” said Becky Preve, executive director of the Association on Aging. “And it’s been a historical issue long-term that the network has been underfunded.” And the backlog, advocates warn, will only get worse if lawmakers adopt Hochul’s proposed budget, which cuts $9.3 million for home and community-based services. In a statement, Roger Noyes, spokesman for the Office for the Aging, said the proposed budget “continues the state’s historic investment in unmet-need funding, including $23 million for older New Yorkers across the state awaiting services.” Last year, Hochul announced that the state, which ranks fourth in the nation in the number of individuals aged 60 and over, would work with advocates to craft a Master Plan for the Aging to develop strategies for older New Yorkers. At a well attended Master Plan meeting last month in Hauppauge, seniors repeatedly stressed the need for a larger financial investment by the state to reduce the waiting list.

An increasing number of Long Island seniors are languishing on a waiting list for home and community-based services, including medical transportation, meal deliveries and in-home personal care, in part because of a lack of state funding, according to records and elder advocates.

The rising backlog statewide of non-Medicaid elder services, which are considered critical in keeping seniors in their homes, is forcing many families to pay out-of-pocket for private services while others are reluctantly entering their loved ones into significantly more expensive nursing homes to obtain long-term support, experts tell Newsday.

The debate comes as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed 2025 state budget cuts more than $9 million for home and community-based service senior services.

“If these families don’t get the services they requested, they’re put in a very unfortunate circumstance of how they can try to cover the services in the home of their loved one,” said Bill Ferris, AARP New York’s state legislative representative. “And if they can’t cover these services, especially personal care services, they’re left with an unfortunate decision to put their loved one in a nursing home or some other adult care facility.”

At the request of Albany lawmakers, the State Office for the Aging recently provided, for the first time, a comprehensive tally of seniors in each county waiting for home and community-based services.

In Suffolk County, 293 residents are waiting for case management services to help them navigate the complex labyrinth of systems and programs as of September, the data shows. In addition, 242 Suffolk seniors are waiting for in-home care such as cleaning, meal preparation, grocery shopping, laundry, bathing, dressing and toileting while 163 are waiting for home delivered meals, records show.

Suffolk’s county-level waiting list appears to be the second highest in the state, behind the five boroughs of New York City.

“As the senior population grows in Suffolk County, we are facing a dangerous shortage of health care and home aides and other critical assistance seniors need to live,” County Executive Edward Romaine said in a statement. “It has become increasingly important that New York State continues to fund these programs. And we will continue to advocate for additional state dollars so that we can care for our senior citizens in the way they deserve.”

Suffolk experienced a 32% increase in its 60-and-older population between the 2010 Census and the 2020 Census, increasing the demand for services. Even if funding was full restored, county officials said, the waiting list could persist because of a shortage of home-care workers.

The backlog, state records indicate, is better in Nassau County where 105 residents are waiting for case management services; 67 for in-home personal care; 57 for transportation to doctors and grocery stores and 20 for congregate meals served at senior centers that provide the elderly socialization time.

Nassau officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Home and community-based elder services for individuals who earn above the Medicaid level are funded by the State Office for the Aging and administered by county officials.

Advocates note that a senior could be on a waiting list for multiple services simultaneously and that a detailed list of the total number of individuals waiting in each county is not available.

The highest demand for care statewide was among 80-year-old women with low income who need help with bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, house cleaning and laundry, AARP found.

The backlog, experts said, is a product of a rapidly growing senior population, declining state funding, inflationary cost increases for meals and home delivery services and a mandated wage increase for home-care workers that was funded for Medicaid providers but not the local aging services network.

Fully addressing the waiting list will cost the state $42 million, according to calculations from the Association on Aging in New York, an Albany-based group that supports county level senior agencies.

“When you look at the overall totality of the budget of the State of New York, eight-tenths of 1% goes to aging services,” said Becky Preve, executive director of the Association on Aging. “And it’s been a historical issue long-term that the network has been underfunded.”

And the backlog, advocates warn, will only get worse if lawmakers adopt Hochul’s proposed budget, which cuts $9.3 million for home and community-based services.

In a statement, Roger Noyes, spokesman for the Office for the Aging, said the proposed budget “continues the state’s historic investment in unmet-need funding, including $23 million for older New Yorkers across the state awaiting services.”

Last year, Hochul announced that the state, which ranks fourth in the nation in the number of individuals aged 60 and over, would work with advocates to craft a Master Plan for the Aging to develop strategies for older New Yorkers.

At a well attended Master Plan meeting last month in Hauppauge, seniors repeatedly stressed the need for a larger financial investment by the state to reduce the waiting list.…Read more by Robert Brodsky

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