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Aging in Place with Dignity
By Judy Fink, LCSW and Heidi Weiss, LMSW, MHA
The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is composed of people 85 years of age. This is especially true in Westchester, where 20% of our population is over the age of 65. Most seniors prefer to age safely and well in their homes and communities. Yet needs vary depending upon each individual’s situation, family, friends, and the community in which he or she resides. A thorough assessment of each senior’s situation is required to find the best solution to meet his or her needs
At Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), one of the largest human service organizations in Westchester, our geriatric care workers conduct a geriatric assessment to ensure that our clients have safe transportation options, comprehensive health care, including treatment for mental health challenges, affordable housing, access to affordable food, and the best caregiving situation possible. The majority of seniors today (about 60%) depend on informal relatives, friends, and neighbors as caregivers, who often feel stressed and pressured by “sandwich generation” demands and the emotional, physical, financial, and social needs of the older adults who are in their care.
At WJCS, we are committed to addressing the comprehensive needs of seniors. Older people are at greater risk for isolation, loneliness, and depression and often have chronic medical problems or disabilities, and experience the loss of close friends. Our wide range of services include: geriatric care management; home health services, mental health counseling; kosher home-delivered meals; in-home respite; assistance for caregivers with loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias; a program for people with life-threatening illnesses; Project Lifesaver (a location tracker for adults who may wander); and a program to help seniors in institutions return home with the aid of wrap-around services.
WJCS also offers support groups for individuals with Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias as well as for caregivers in assisted living centers throughout Westchester as well as in our own offices. Whether you are a caregiver who feels stressed, angry, resentful, or fulfilled in your role, the opportunity to share feelings in a safe, comfortable environment is helpful. Knowing that you are not alone and that it is all right to ask for help provides great reassurance to the members of our support groups.
We’re very fortunate that Westchester has wonderful resources for seniors and caregivers. In addition to providing the services above, at WJCS, we provide clients with information about programs, services, benefits, and entitlements as well as referrals to appropriate Westchester County agencies. Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services (DSPS) and the Westchester Public Private Partnership for Aging Services provide a wide range of services for seniors and caregivers: Care Circles, Care Prep, Caregiver Coaching Program, Next Stage, Livable Communities, Older Driver Family Assistance Program, home care, Caregiver Resource Centers throughout the County, elder abuse education, benefit/entitlement counseling, long-term care insurance education, info on Adult Day Care Centers, etc. In addition, Westchester County is rich with other agencies who are able to assist with housing issues, benefits/entitlements, Medicaid application, and Medicare advice.
Every individual deserves to age with dignity. At WJCS, we’re here to help that goal be realized.
Judy Fink, LCSW, is Director of Geriatric Services at WJCS. Heidi Weiss, LMSW, MHA, is Coordinator of Addressing Alzheimer’s at WJCS. For more information, please call (914) 761-0600 x2340.