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Counties pool resources to help seniors

Edie Sennett was touched by the reaction of seniors during a recent ceremony held in Delmar to honor veterans who served as far back as World War II.

It’s a common reaction for Sennett, who is the coordinator of the Long-Term Ombudsman Program in Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery, and Washington counties. The program, established through the federal Older Americans Act, is mandated for each county in New York.

Sennett’s job is to work with residents of long-term senior care facilities throughout each county.

“We represent the resident,” Sennett said following a ceremony at the Kenwood Manor home. “We don’t represent any of the facilities. We represent them, so our allegiance is only to them.”

Through the ombudsman position, Sennett is responsible for helping residents to understand their rights within facilities. Those rights include being treated with respect and dignity, being able to manage their own finances and being able to voice grievances without fear of retaliation.

“There’s not a lot of money attached to the program,” Sennett said. “We get federal money, and we get some state money.”

Over $67,000 is made available for the program yearly in the four counties. The federal government grants $40,000, with the rest picked up by the state.

The Red Cross of Northeastern New York has sponsored the program in Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery and Washington counties since July 2010. By combining the programs, enough money was available to hire Sennett full-time.

Sennett estimated that she serves about 5,600 long-term care residents in the area. Forty certified volunteers provide Sennett with assistance by also speaking with residents.

In Rensselaer County, ombudsman Rich Haldeman started a program to recognize veterans of all military branches who now live in long-term care facilities. It’s the type of program that Sennett hopes to expand throughout the areas she covers.

“Look at the people’s faces who are being recognized,” said Sennett. “I think that what we see every day in our business as ombudsmen, many of the seniors, you know, there’s nobody that comes to see them. They feel forgotten. So, here’s an opportunity to recognize them.”

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