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Connecting people to long-term care

ELIZABETHTOWN - A new hotline is available in Essex County to make the transition to long-term care services easier for people of all ages.

NY Connects, a program established by the New York State Office for the Aging and Department of Health, is a local information and assistance program designed to make a variety of long-term care programs more accessible for the average person.

Essex County Office for the Aging service coordinator Krissy Leerkes the need for long-term care services is increasing as baby-boomers move into their 60s.

However, navigating the long term care system in order to access needed services is complex, fragmented and difficult, said Leerkes, not only for persons who qualify for publicly-funded support but also for those who pay privately.

But NY Connects acts as a free, local, consumer-centered link to long-term care options, which may include services for special-needs children, a nursing home for seniors, family-style adult homes, or other forms of assisted living.

Patty Bashaw, head of Essex County's Office for the Aging, said the most beneficial aspect of the program is how it acts as a one-stop shop for those looking to access long-term care, maintaining one phone number that will always be answered by a living person.

"It's huge for the seniors," said Bashaw, "because with other agencies, you either have to navigate a Web site or an automated phone system."

While some seniors may want to avoid seeking long-term care, Bashaw said its important for them to learn about what services are available before a crisis arises. She also said services can often be provided at their current residence.

"Obviously, our goal is to help them remain at home safely as long as possible," Bashaw said.

So far, the services has contributed marked success to OFA, said Bashaw, noting the increased number of referrals they have processed, especially from the under-60 population.

"I think when we can minimize the number of times people have to be passed off to another agency, it's definitely worth it," said Bashaw.

For more information on NY Connects, visit www.nyconnects.org or call the Essex County Office for the Aging at 873-3815.

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