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Keeping clear of hospital care

"It's one of the things that is increasing healthcare costs for all of us," said Diane Cameron, executive director of Community Caregivers. "If we can help meet the needs of people who don't have to readmit, that's going to be a benefit to the whole community."

Community Caregivers is no stranger to the realm of volunteer services, having provided help to seniors for the past 15 years. Their volunteers generally focus on providing transportation to shopping or doctor's visits, but they also offer respite services, technology assistance and assurance visits. The group currently serves around 680 clients.

Recurrent hospital readmission is a serious problem for some seniors, especially when families don't have the time or resources to keep a close eye on their affairs once they've been released. Having a level-headed person to handle the minutiae, especially in the wake of a jarring hospitalization, can be a real help.

"That's the kind of smart friend we all wish we had in a crisis," Cameron said. "We believe there are many people who could be at home with care like this."

Albany County Executive Michael Breslin is advocating the county make a transition to more home-based senior care rather than construct a new county nursing home, an issue that has put him at odds with some in the county legislature that would like to see a new complex built.

Notwithstanding that prickly issue, the Navigator program is definitely intended to extend the period people are able to remain at home and away from 24/7 care.

"It's one piece of keeping people at home in their community as much as possible," Stachewicz said. "It certainly helps them maintain their independence for a little bit longer."

Those interested in volunteering as a navigator should contact Community Caregivers through www.communitycaregivers.org or 456-2898. Training will be taking place throughout the month.

Community Caregivers is looking for about 30 volunteers, said Cameron, and the time commitment would be on the order of a few hours per week, perhaps slightly more when the person is first discharged form the hospital.

The program will only be offered through Albany Memorial Hospital, but if it is successful it could see implementation elsewhere.

"I think its an exciting initiative," said Stachewicz. "We're hoping that it's going to be extremely successful and something that can be duplicated elsewhere in New York state."

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