GLENS FALLS -- Caring for her 81-year-old father is like having a full-time job, said Nikki Tortora.
“I am his total caregiver — doctors appointments, running to get prescriptions,” she said.
Tortora, of Hudson Falls, said she worries about who would step in to help if she becomes ill.
“I’m 60, and I’m not getting healthier every day either,” she said.
An AARP-led coalition is asking the state to increase funding by $26 million in 2014 for programs that provide support services for so-called “unpaid caregivers,” people who care for elderly relatives or friends who live in their own homes or apartments.
“That would go a long way toward easing the burden on caregivers,” said Erin Mitchell, AARP associate state director, at a press conference on Friday at the Greater Glens Falls Senior Center.
The additional funding primarily would be used to expand existing programs through county offices for the aging which employ people to assist with transportation or house cleaning or to stay with an elderly person so the caregiver can have a day or two off for “respite.”
Programs now have about 7,000 people on waiting lists statewide because of insufficient funding, according to the New York Caregiving and Respite Coalition, which includes AARP and other advocacy organizations and human service agencies.
The request is based on the amount needed to cover everyone on waiting lists.
Most of the requested funding — about $23.4 million — would be used to expand the state’s In-Home Services for the Elderly Program, which received about $50 million in the state budget this year.
The program’s money is drawn from the state’s general fund.
Other new funding would be used for legal assistance, caregiver training, affordable housing and to establish a new “Community Care Navigator” program.
Case workers at local offices for the aging would help caregivers prepare plans.
“We hear from caregivers about the need for training to improve their skills,” said Joan Tarantino, executive director of Glens Falls Home.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office did not return to telephone and email requests to comment for this report.
These issues are particularly important in Warren County, where 18.4 percent of the residents are 65 or older, a higher percentage than the statewide figure of 14.1 percent, Mitchell said.
Projections show that by 2030, one in every four Warren County residents will be 65 or older, based on demographic trends, she said.
“This is certainly a topic that is close to my heart,” said Christine Sabo, director of Warren/Hamilton Counties Office for the Aging, who participated in the press conference.
Caregivers experience physical and emotional stress, while providing care for free, said Gretchen Moore, director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York.
“There also is a burden that is beyond financial,” she said.