The Rensselaer County Unified Family Services Department for the Aging has been in existence since 1973 (its predecessor, a model project, began in 1969) and serves the 26,521 residents of the County who are sixty (60) years of age and older. The primary goal of the Department is to provide a network of supportive and preventative services, which enable the County's elderly to maintain themselves productively and independently within the community.
The Department is funded by the Federal Older American's Act, the New York State Community Services for the Elderly and Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program, and the County of Rensselaer. The Older American's Act divides the areas of service delivery as follows:
- Services (A-6772) - including access, legal and home care;
- Nutrition (A-6773) - including congregate and home delivered meals;
- Community Services for the Elderly and Caregiver Support (A-6775) - assistance to allow seniors to remain at home and support services for caregivers; and
- Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (A-6777) - provides Homemaking/Personal Care, Housekeeping/Chore and Lifeline services.
The Department works in partnership with R.O.U.S.E. Inc. (Rensselaer Organization United for Senior Endeavors) and ROUSE, RPC (Rural Preservation Corp.) to target its resources to meet the needs of the elderly; working closely as advocates for the elderly and as their liaison with local governments.
The Central Office of UFS-Aging provides:
- Planning and coordination of senior programs and services;
- Overall personnel management of Departmental needs;
- Stimulation of interest and action toward the expansion and creation of new programs;
- Pooling of untapped resources to provide services to the elderly; and
- Provision of information and education to the general public to make them more aware of the programs and services potentially available to the elderly.
The Unified Family Services Department for the Aging directly provides a wide range of services to the County's senior citizens, with an emphasis on serving those most in need. Some of the services provided include: maintenance of five (5) multi-purpose senior citizen centers and sites, recruitment, training and placement in volunteer activities, screening and placement for employment opportunities, health clinics, recreation, and arts and crafts programs. In order to adequately serve the needs of the entire County, the Department has divided the County into three (3) catchment areas, the Northern, Middle and Southern Tiers. Each tier has two (2) senior service centers, which relate directly to the communities, the individual senior citizen clubs and the elderly residents in that area. Through this structure, the services offered through the centers are made accessible with fewer barriers.
The Nutrition Program provides senior citizens with noontime meals, Monday through Friday, which supply at least one third (1/3) of the Recommended Daily Nutrition Allowance. Meals are served at six (6) sites throughout the County. The Congregate meal serves to break the loneliness, isolation and poor nutrition cycle by giving the elderly the opportunity to socialize with their peers. Operations of the Nutrition Program include supportive services such as Transportation, Escort Service, Information and Referral, Health and Welfare Counseling, Shopping Assistance and Outreach. In addition Leisure and Recreational Programs are also provided. The Service is targeted to those who are low income, minority, isolated, frail, handicapped or homebound.
Home-delivered meals are provided to the frail and homebound elderly unable to participate in the congregate meal. Payment for both home-delivered and congregate meals are voluntary, with a contribution requested. No one is denied a meal due to his or her inability to pay.
The Community Services Bill, which was signed by the Governor in May 1979, provided the first State funding for the provision of services to the older residents of the State. The objective of the program is to assist elderly persons to remain in their home and to participate in family and community life. State monies are provided to assist counties in improving the cooperation and coordination among the providers of community services, which can help the needy elderly. Services will be determined locally, but must:
- Increase the capacity of recipients to remain in their homes and community as long as possible;
- Assist recipients to return to their homes from residential facilities; and
- Include activities to advocate that recipients receive other services available to assist them.
On July 1, 2001 a new program was created "National Family Caregiver Support Program" Title IIIE. This program offers supportive services to those caring for elderly persons. Some of the services include:
- Respite Services - Adult Day Care, Homemaking/Personal Care, Housekeeping/Chore, Home Health Aides, and overnight Respite Care at Residential Facilities;
- Support Groups - Caregivers and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren;
- Home delivered meals; and
Through the array of services offered under the program, the goal is to give the caregiver a break from the caregiver role. This is important in keeping the loved one home as long as possible.
In July, 1986, New York State enacted legislation to increase the Community Services for the Elderly Program to provide Area Agencies on Aging with gap-filling and expansion funds for non-medical, in-home care services for the elderly, so the elderly could remain in the community. The Department is responsible for implementing a countywide home care plan, which assesses program needs and develops a plan of new gap-filling or expansion programs which are to be funded through services monies.