In department review, director of Office of the Aging outlines ongoing work and challenges
The staff and volunteers at the Office of the Aging continue to keep busy, Director Ruth Spink told members of the Human Services Committee on Monday and one thing that keeps them busy is helping clients navigate an increasingly complex health care system.
The rules and regulations around Medicare, the primary insurer of many people over age 65, change annually and often clients are unsure if a recent doctor's visit or new medication is covered and Spink and her staff help clients navigate that system, she said.
Other challenges facing the office include finding enough volunteers to drive clients to and from medical appointments, particularly those seeing physicians in Rochester and Buffalo.
"We desperately need more volunteer medical transporation drivers," Spink said.
An anticipated challenge for the office is the demographic changes in Genesee County. An aging population is going to mean Spink's office is providing more services to more people, which will put a strain on the county budget, and there will be an increased need for facilities and personnel to care for older retirees.
There remains a shortage of housing for upper-middle-income retirees in Genesee County.
Spink said there are a couple of developers considering local projects but neither has made a commitment yet. They might be hesitant, despite market studies recognizing the need, that the market will support the rental rates needed to make such a project profitable.
"They've started the process but they haven't gone as far as I thought they would go," Spink said. "I think if it were successful for those two, then maybe word gets out and they (other developers) will see that the demand is there and they'll find it is cost effective."
There continues to be a shortage of in-home care professionals as well as care providers for nursing homes, Spink said.
Spink also worries about the elderly who keep themselves isolated. When people are isolated, they have more health problems and it's hard to keep them connected to the community.
"We’re still trying to make connections to let them know we’re there for them and that we care for them and that we will help as much as we can," Spink said. "Sometimes it is something as simple as sending little notes to them."