HEALTH / Dan Barton
February 04, 2010 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Everybody's getting older. In about a decade, the baby boomers will start getting to the point where they will (much to their collective generational horror) need some help doing basic things.

When that happens, Always There will be there. The 40-year-old not-for-profit, which offers home health services (cleaning, cooking, bathing) for seniors, as well as professional care (like physical therapy and care from social workers and registered nurses) and adult day care, last week debuted its new 15,000-square-foot Town of Ulster office with a large ribbon-cutting. The party included some moderately important types - both of Ulster's state senators, Bill Larkin and John Bonacic, spoke, as did representatives of assemblyman Kevin Cahill and congressman Maurice Hinchey. Ulster County comptroller Elliott Auerbach was there, too, as was deputy county executive Marshall Beckman, Town of Ulster supervisor Jim Quigley, and various business and community leaders.

"Senator Larkin and I are looking forward to coming back on their 50th anniversary celebration," Bonacic said.

Auerbach, who was Ellenville's village manager before becoming comptroller, noted that the agency office there at 221 Canal Street has been a good thing. "I can really tell you the [positive] impact on the community since you've been there."

Lori DuBord, a Hinchey staffer and the congressman's stand-in at the ribbon-cutting last Wednesday, said Always There had helped her out with physical therapy when she broke her leg a few years ago. "I thought I would never walk again," said DuBord - who, it should be noted, is not a senior citizen - but with the agency's help, "I got back on my feet."

The new office, at 918 Ulster Avenue, doesn't only provide more space for Always There's administrative personnel - it has over 200 workers who last year made over 41,000 visits to seniors totaling 124,000 hours - but it also has classrooms specially designed to train home health-service providers and a roomy space for the adult day-care programs. About half the employees are personal-care aides; they have to take 40 hours of training about how to care for seniors - bathing, dressing, nutrition, and dealing with walkers and other senior-care issues. Aides have to have a high-school diploma or GED to take the personal-care course.

Boasting that "new office smell," the facility was toured by those in attendance, who also dined on breakfast items provided by the Uptown Kingston restaurant Maxwell's and sipped coffee provided by Coffee Services of the Hudson Valley. It was a long way from "the little room on Main Street in Kingston" from which Always There started as a homemaker service, executive director Deb Glassey said at the ceremony.

While known mostly for sending its workers out into seniors' (and others') homes, Always There has adult day-care centers at both its locations. On the day of the ribbon cutting, workers led a group of about a dozen seniors of varying levels of spryness in exercises and dancing to a hip-hop soundtrack.

"We also provide two adult day-care programs, one here in Kingston and one in Ellenville," Glassey said. These are for seniors who need socialization with their peers or who can't be left alone during the day.

Professional services are usually covered by Medicare, said Glassey, but the personal-care services are not. Always There takes most private insurances, and seniors can get personal care covered by add-on insurance. Personal-care services are billed at $20 per hour; professional-care services are $150 per visit. Very few of Always There's clients pay for the latter out of pocket.

Always There contracts with the Veterans Administration for vets to attend day care. Otherwise it's pretty much private pay, with a $48-a-day price tag - $43 for the program and $5 for transportation to and from.

"Some [insurance companies] are starting to look at [covering adult day care], but it's mostly private pay," said Glassey, "so we keep our fees at less than what it's costing us because we know people need the services who can't afford them."

Glassey is well aware of the graying of the population, and said the agency has been planning for it. How was Always There going to deal with the large amount of about-to-be senior citizens moving through the population like a goat through a boa constrictor? "The first step was moving into this facility," Glassey responded. "We planned this facility with additional space for more office staff." Additional classroom space will allow the agency to ramp up the training of aides.

Though eight to ten other local agencies provide personal-care services, only one other agency in UIster does professional home care, Glassey said. Always There hopes to expand to cover more of Ulster County and across the river to northern Dutchess. Always There's family home-health services is certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Family home care is licensed by the New York State Department of Health, and adult day programs are approved by the Office for the Aging.

Should national health-care reform happen, Glassey hopes that that it will include more coverage for home care. "A lot of times what would keep people in their homes [if their relatives don't live locally] is to have someone come in and make a meal or go shopping for them," Glassey said. "They don't need the physical therapists or the registered nurses to stay home. They just need that little bit of help, because they can't get out by themselves." ++

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