ITHACA, NY – Growing up in this area, Rodney Maine spent many years living with and supporting his grandparents while attending school in Trumansburg. “I was always close to my grandparents, even when I went to college,” he said. “When I was 19, I bought the house next to my grandparents’ house.”
After leaving home and studying accounting, Rodney observed that his later work in banking and real estate did not suit him. But when he joined the Tompkins County Office of Aging (COFA) 12 years ago as a part-time accountant, he realized he had both an interest and years of experience. experience in caring for elderly family members.
“When my grandmother moved into my great-grandmother’s house to take care of her and her aunt at the same time, I was right next door,” Rodney said. “My grandfather passed on his knowledge and wisdom to me before he died – how to tinker and fix things. Now that my great grandmother and great aunt are gone, I like living near my grandmother , who remains independent.I help her fix things and solve aging issues on the spot…I understand firsthand the challenges of older people.
When a part-time outreach worker position opened up at COFA, Rodney’s two assignments made him a full-time staff member. Between his work schedule, he earned his college degree in business administration and welcomed the arrival of his son Andrew. It’s a good thing that we have a lot of energy when we’re young.
While Rodney called on his skills in bookkeeping and presenting information about services available to seniors, he wanted the time and resources to present more specific information and work one-on-one with COFA clients. Over three years ago, Rodney became an aging service specialist in our service-rich community.
“It has been inspiring work, helping people seize opportunities to meet their needs,” he said. “Family members can feel unfamiliar and scared – suddenly immersed in caring for a very sick loved one, and they turn to COFA every day. I work closely with this wonderful group of colleagues, who are available to solve with me any problem that, at first glance, may seem insurmountable.
“At the Office for Aging, we are person-centred. I often get to know clients by first name who, months after our last call, contact me to let me know that they are doing better and that our guidance and support has made a difference at a crucial time in their lives” , added Rodney. . “It makes my colleagues and I realize how important our work is for a vulnerable population.”
Rodney believes that despite the rich array of local services for seniors, there is still a huge unmet need for aging in place services. While most Americans prefer to age in place, the shortage of home health aides, nurses, and mobile speech/physiotherapists who provide care in their homes often push families to resort to residential care. While other countries are improving home care by providing 24/7 care for the frail at home, in the United States there simply aren’t enough affordable staff. Nursing homes are underfunded and salaries for carers are so low that there are not enough carers for those who need them.
Before we part, Rodney notes that this county’s Office for the Aging is renowned for its innovative pilot projects.
“During the pandemic, available government and private funding has allowed us to try unusual approaches to reach people and help counter their loneliness and social isolation,” he said. “We worked with local agencies to identify people who would benefit from a tablet computer and access to technology. Our Senior Tablets program provided seniors with electronic tablets, free Wi-Fi and connectivity, so they could stay in touch with loved ones and friends.
The second pilot focused on people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as others feeling depressed and alone. Pets are robotic dogs and cats. A man with Alzheimer’s disease has spent too much time alone scratching and scratching his skin, Rodney said. His caretakers reported that his sores and injuries improved once he started playing with his pet.
“As in the past, what works in Tompkins County can become the model for other communities…My colleagues and I are proud to be part of the Tompkins County Office for Aging,” he said. declared.