Delaware County Aging Services Director Wayne Shepard on Aging in Rural New York
Wayne started his career as a clinical nurse and joined the county Department of Public Health where he worked for more than two decades before becoming Director of the Delaware County Office for the Aging in 2011.
Well, guess what: 12% of New York State is rural, and Delaware County, which is southwest of Albany in a region called the Southern Tier, is both large and rural. The county is the size of the state of Maryland with no major highway, according to new Delaware County Office for the Aging Wayne Shepard, who was named Director of the Area Agency on Aging in 2011 after 23 years in Delaware County’s Department of Public Health. “It takes three hours to drive from one end of the county to the other on a good day.”
Wayne started his career as a clinical nurse and joined the Delaware County Department of Public Health where he worked for more than two decades before becoming Director of the Delaware County Office for the Aging in 2011.
“Wayne is part of a new wave of Area Agency on Aging Directors in New York State. In an effort to familiarize the Aging Network with new Area Agency on Aging directors, the New York State Association of Area Agencies on Aging profiles a new director each month in the Association’
The Delaware County Office for the Aging provides a network of critical community-based nonmedical services to the aging population. Like other counties in New York State and nationally, the population is shifting from young to old. In Delaware County, 27 percent of the population is over the age of 60, according to the 2010 US Census. Services for seniors in the community are provided through a combination of sub-contracted programs and direct services provided by the department staff and volunteers.
Being a rural county does present a unique set of circumstances, Shepard said, but he’s determined to not let it get in the way. When he started working for the Delaware Area Agency on Aging, the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program had expanded beyond its reach.
Today, the county agency has a new contract with At Home Care, a Medicare-certified home health agency in partnership with Bassett Healthcare Network that fills the gap. The home-health agency provides in home professional and paraprofessional services in Herkimer, Delaware, Otsego and Chenango Counties.
Many people want to age in place at home and not in a nursing home. But, with advanced age comes illness and disabilities, nonmedical in nature, nevertheless limiting. The Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program is for older adults who struggle with the most basic tasks of daily living, but don’t need medical care.
“We’re fortunate no one is on our EISEP waiting list,” said Shepard who was considering implementing the Medicaid Consumer Directed Program, which provides services to chronically ill or physically disabled individuals who have a medical need for help with activities of daily living. Contracting with the new home care company prevented him from having to take that step.
In order to be eligible for Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly Program, seniors must be able to be maintained safely at home and have one or more informal caregiver providing continuing care. There are two levels of services, Personal Care 1 and Personal Care 2.
Personal Care Level 1 services include assistance with: light housekeeping, meal preparation, escort assistance, running errands and food shopping. Personal Care Level 2 services include assistance with: all tasks listed under Personal Care Level 1 plus bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, transferring and ambulation, feeding, eating and the self-administration of medication.
The Home Delivered Meal program was also expanding beyond the budget mainly because of higher food costs, but the county pitched in and the budget increased from $40,000 to $50,000 and the agency has been able to reach people in their homes at least once a week.
Wayne has lived in Delaware County all his life and spends his free time tending to vegetable and perennial gardens. It’s a family passion, growing produce that lasts through the winter.
“The focus for the Delaware County Office for the Aging this year,” he said, “is on collaborating with the Department of Social Services. Monthly meetings are planned so everyone is on the same page. Sometimes you have one vision of what people need and you think you understand but what they need is totally different. That’s something I’ve learned over the years.”