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Senior advocates ask state for more funding for the elderly

AARP Associate State Director William Stoner is joined

AARP Associate State Director William Stoner is joined by volunteers during a press conference to call on the state to increase funding for senior care programs for low income adults. (Dec. 17, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Long Island senior advocates and New York AARP leaders called on the state Tuesday to provide an additional $26 million in funding for programs aimed at helping families that provide nursing care for their relatives at home.

The report asks for the added funding for the State Office for the Aging for non-Medicaid-funded caregiving assistance programs.

New York's chapter of AARP estimates that nearly 600,000 Nassau and Suffolk residents over the age of 50 are caring for elderly loved ones at home instead of placing them in costlier long-term nursing centers and hospitals. With that figure expected to grow as Long Island's population continues to age, AARP officials are pushing the state to provide more support programs for families.

In a 16-page report unveiled at a Bay Shore news conference, AARP officials also called on the state to create a Community Care Navigator program, where caregivers could call or go online to be connected with available social service programs.

"This was the top concern among the caregivers we listened to around the state who want to take care of their loved ones, but too often don't know where to start or where to turn," said William Stoner, Associate AARP New York State director for Long Island.

"The stresses on families is a growing problem when you consider the cost of living on Long Island, the congestion, the stress is going to be even greater on a caregiver," said Edward F. Gibbons Jr., chairman of the Long Island Family Caregiver Coalition, a Syosset-based advocacy group.

More than a dozen senior advocates who first gathered at the Alzheimer's Disease Resource Center in Bay Shore spent the day delivering copies of the report to Long Island state lawmakers.

Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, called the report a "positive step" in drawing attention to needs of seniors.

"Those over 70 are the state's fastest growing population," Hannon said. "We're really starting to look intensely at the needs of our aging population."

Marc Nagleberg, 67, of Copiague, was among the volunteers distributing reports to state lawmakers, saying the issue hit close to home. He has cared for his wife, Barbara, 64, for the past four years after she had a stroke and lost vision in one eye.

"It's overwhelming, almost like taking care of an adult infant, but it's my job, and I do it because I know my wife would do the same for me," he said.

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