I worked for many years with a family run business where, around the coffee machine or water cooler, many of the older employees commiserated about dealing with aging parents in the New York City. There was one person, however, Patty — I won’t use her surname to protect her privacy — who was always full of good advice and happy to share resources she had used in arranging care for her father, Larry.
Larry, or “Flash” as his friends call him, is now 92, and, very fortunately, has managed to avoid Covid during this year of pandemic. A resident of Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, he is a Korean War veteran who worked well into his Eighties, driving a school bus after a long career in the restaurant business. Patty is the youngest of three daughters, and she is his primary caregiver. “It’s a privilege to take care of my Dad.” Patty says. “It’s not a burden.”
More than a year ago, I worked with Patty on a post to share the resources she had found to help her father. Then the pandemic hit. I held back this post, uncertain how the Covid would affect programs and services she mentioned. Now, in fall of 2021, with new variants of the virus still among us, these organizations are continuing to adjust to the new realities and reduced budgets. During the pandemic, JASA, the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, and the Met Council provided critical food to seniors in need, among many other outreach programs for seniors and their caregivers. These two organizations were so helpful to Patty in caring for Larry.
Whether you are getting older in NYC yourself or caring for a parent, it’s worth exploring, as Patty did, what the city provides along with charitable organizations serving city residents. Many but not all of the services are need based. The NYC Department for the Aging, for instance, provides caregiving resources, including free counseling, training, and referrals, to anyone caring for an aging adult in the city, as does CaringKind NYC, which is focused on caring for adults with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
The first stop for Patty in helping Larry was the NYC Department for the Aging. It was through them that she learned how to get Larry’s rent frozen when he turned 62 under SCRIE or the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption. In short, to qualify individuals must be at least 62 years old and named on the lease as a primary tenant in a rent stabilized or rent controlled property. The combined annual household income must be $50,000 or less with more than one-third of the monthly household income spent on rent.
SCRIE is crucial to keeping NYC affordable for older New Yorkers. Residents who are approved must continue to renew each year and meet all the eligibility requirements, but if they do, one crucial aspect of their budget will remain frozen for years to come. A tax credit provided to the landlord covers the difference between the actual rent and the frozen rate. Learn more about SCRIE at the link at the end of this post.
Once Patty got Larry’s rent frozen, she looked into other services. The two main organizations that helped her provide care and services for Larry were JASA, Jewish Association for Serving the Aging, and the Met Council. The first draft of this post detailed the services these organizations provided. Now, in an attempt to keep this post relevant in changing times, I’m providing here only a quick recap for these major organizations that do so much good in NYC.
Briefly, JASA’s support services include operating affordable housing properties and home care, free legal services, health and mental health services, home-delivered meals, caregiver assistance, and much more. As their mission statement outlines, “JASA is the go-to agency serving older adults in New York City, providing critical services to over 40,000 people annually. Founded 50+ years ago, JASA is a leading expert and innovator in aging services that recognizes the diversity among the aging population and honors older adults as vital members of society.”
The Met Council is a network of local Jewish community organizations throughout the city helping vulnerable people who need help with food, housing and social services throughout the five boroughs. Here is more from their website: “Met Council is America’s largest Jewish charity dedicated to serving the needy. Met Council’s ten different departments are staffed by experts who helped over 305,000 clients in 2020 and continuously advocate on behalf of all needy New Yorkers. Our holistic programs range from 100% affordable housing at 20 locations to our award-winning family violence program to comprehensive Holocaust survivor assistance to senior programming to crisis intervention to the largest free kosher food distribution program in the world. Our network of 101 food pantries, 20 affordable housing sites, and 15 JCCs provide services directly in neighborhoods across New York.”
Patty also noted that a few of her older gay friends have benefitted from services provided by SAGE — Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders. SAGE provides affordable housing and coordinated care to LGBT seniors age 60 and over along with the people who support them.
To Patty’s resources, I want to add Caringkind NYC, an organization that my husband Jim and I have supported in recent years. Particularly if you are caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this organization has so many great resources to help you. Frequently asked questions for those who call Caringkind’s help line include, “My loved one is wandering. Can you help?” and “How do a find and hire a Home Health Aide?” They offer caregiver training workshops in Spanish, English, and Chinese, and also offer free webinars on legal and financial assistance among other topics. We walked recently in the organization’s fundraising walk in Central Park and it was inspiring to see such a wide cross section of ages and ethnicities taking part in the walk. CaringKind should be your first outreach if you are new to caregiving for a relative with dementia.
Patty also used Paid Family Leave to take time off from work to help with caregiving. This is a state-wide benefit that New York has offered since 2014, guaranteeing that an employee can take time off to care for a family member and not lose their job. In 2021, the benefit was expanded for up to 12 weeks of paid time off for eligible employees to bond with a new child or to provide family caregiving. It also covers time off while dealing with a Covid-related sickness or quarantine. With this law, employees have job protection that they may return to work after caregiving. This program is funded by employees through payroll deductions.
The funding landscape continues to be challenging. I’m posting this information now because the needs continue despite the pandemic. Caregivers need help, seniors need to eat, among so many other urgent needs. If you or your parent could use some help now, check out the links below, review the websites, and call to talk to the staff about how they can help.
We New Yorkers are fortunate to have such a strong safety net at such a critical time. New York City’s older population is projected to reach more than 20 percent of the city’s residents by 2040. The city’s strong network of social services will become even more crucial in the years to come.
Thank you, Patty, for sharing your experience and your resources. We wish for your father Larry continued health and good spirits.
Met Council, the largest Jewish communal social safety net in America:
JASA, the Jewish Association Serving the Aging:
CaringKind’s Helpline: 646-744-2900
The New York State Office for the Aging also covers Caregivers, Housing, Health, Veterans services and more not only in NYC but throughout the state:
The NYC Department for Aging also includes a Caregiver Resource Center.
See the link below or call 212-AGING-NYC (212-244-6469) to speak with an Aging Specialist and learn about services and support.
SCRIE program on rent freeze:
SAGE —Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders