Preparing for the "Silver Tsunami"

- Across the country, the baby boomer generation is now entering the senior years. Experts say it is crucial to prepare for this huge shift. 

Ben and Elaine Gioseffi have been married for 51 years. They have lived in the same home in Greece since 1971. Elaine has Alzheimer's and Ben is her full-time caregiver. 

"I do have some home care. You pay out-of-pocket money. But if I want to do that then I have resources I can draw on. Our friends have been great too," Ben said.

In Webster, Heidi Ames and her siblings are also providing care. Heidi's frail and elderly parents just moved in with her sister and brother-in-law. The couple is renovating their home, but they are adjusting their work schedules to accommodate them. 

"One thing I do not quite comprehend is why, if as a family we decide to put mom in a nursing home, the government will [not] step up to pay for a great portion of the expenses. While we are being respectful, caring and loving to our mom, we don't get any assistance," Heidi said.

Ben and Heidi are among an estimated 80,000 Monroe County residents providing unpaid care to an adult relative. That number is expected to double in the next five years. Yet, experts say their concerns are being left out of the budgets debated in Albany and Washington. 

"We have a lot of things going on, but we're not prepared," Lorre Anderson said.

At a recent meeting sponsored by the Greater Rochester Area Partnership for the Elderly (G.R.A.P.E.), advocates urged lawmakers to set up a navigator program to help people find long-term services for seniors. G.R.A.P.E. also wants to expand the Medicaid program that allows consumers to direct their own care to include those with Alzheimer's. They also want to set up Fund Caregiver Assistance programs for people who are not eligible for Medicaid. 

"They need to know where to go to get help, and if they hire someone they need to know that the people they hire are qualified and able to provide those services," Anderson said.

Without action, advocates for the elderly say New York State will careen into crisis because baby boomers are aging. Nearly 15 percent of the local population is made up of seniors. By 2040, that percentage will increase to 30 percent. Supporting caregivers will allow seniors to stay in their homes, which G.R.A.P.E. says most want to do. 

"These are our most vulnerable clients. We're trying to keep them safe in their home and not rely on 24-7 care in a nursing home, which is three times the cost," Michael Dunn said.

"Right now the only thing I can possibly do is offer comfort and safety. I can't offer any more than that," Ben said. 

For more information on G.R.A.P.E. and their efforts, click here. 

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