New program will help seniors remain at home
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New program will help seniors remain at home

While doing some long-term planning, leaders of Jewish Home Family realized they could be doing something more for area seniors.

“The elderly want the ability to stay at home longer,” said Chuck Berkowitz, president and chief executive officer of the group.

Through the new Jewish Home at Home program, those seniors may get their wish.

According to Susan Lilly, the Jewish Home’s director of social services for the past nine years, the goal of the program is to help families provide a setting that “gives an individual the best quality of life and highest level of functioning and autonomy within a safe context.”

“Families don’t always understand what to do,” said Lilly. “If you give them a guideline, they may want to implement it themselves, or they may want help. When a family calls for assistance, they are aware that a problem exists.”

Generally, once something happens – like a parent falling – “they reach out [and] for the most part are open to getting assistance.”

“I think a majority of seniors prefer to be at home,” said Lilly. “While some like to be in assisted living because they perceive themselves as more sociable and flexible, a lot want to be in familiar place with memories.” In addition, she said, “our whole society is seeing the value of aging in place.” (See page 8.)

The cost of the program will vary based on the type of services provided, said Berkowitz.

“Geriatric care management will do an initial assessment for $600, for those who can afford it, but many of the other services will be provided on a sliding-scale basis.” In addition, he said, the program will utilize volunteers wherever possible to provide services at no charge.

“We will be there for those elderly who can afford the services, but more importantly, we want to provide opportunities for those who cannot,” said Berkowitz. To that end, “We are dedicating 20 percent of the revenues to subsidize those who could not, otherwise, afford to purchase services.”

Berkowitz added that as the program becomes more successful, “or as we receive charitable support from those in our community who believe that this is a valuable service to our elderly, we will increase this percentage and give more subsidized care.”

The Jewish Home president said that the goal of the new program is not to duplicate services but rather to contract with groups such as Jewish Family Service and home health agencies to provide the needed assistance.

“We have a waiting list at our facilities,” said Berkowitz. “This is a way to help people feel comfortable whether they’re waiting or choose to stay at home.”

Berkowitz said the initial step will be an assessment, conducted by Lilly and her staff, who will then develop a care plan.

“If they need grab bars, we’ll put them up,” he said, noting that Bonim Builders is eager to help. Bonim, a project of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, rehabilitates and refurbishes homes and other structures for low-income families, the disabled, and seniors.

“We’ll identify and fill needs like changing light bulbs or fixing railings,” said Berkowitz. If other kinds of services are needed, “We’ll send an occupational therapist, speech therapist, or physical therapist to see what can be done.”

While the intention is to use Jewish Home staff as much as possible, Berkowitz noted that several physicians in the community have agreed to do home visits.

“It will be pretty comprehensive,” he said, adding that volunteers may also help with duties such as “getting bills straightened.”

“We’re putting the complete staff at the disposal of this program,” he said. “We’re investing the time and energy to make this a success.”

Alpine resident Bob Peckar, president of Jewish Home at Home and chair of the Jewish Home Family committee that created it, said the idea grew from last year’s adoption of the Jewish Home Family concept.

According to Peckar, the larger group – which embraces the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Russ Berrie Home for Jewish Living; the Jewish Home Assisted Living, Kaplen Family Senior Residence; the Jewish Home Foundation of North Jersey, Inc.; and the Jewish Home & Rehabilitation Center – was conceived as an umbrella, or “organizational parent.”

“It facilitated our thinking about the different pieces we do for community. There’s a whole population of elderly in the community living in homes and apartments who need care but don’t want to go into a facility. They want to live with dignity in their homes.”

Peckar noted that for the families of those people, “It can be a daunting task to deal with the many challenges of accomplishing that.”

While the concept of comprehensive geriatric care management is not unique to the Jewish Home, he said, “we can provide that kind of care from an institution that has proved their level of care, and Jewishness.” He noted that in addition to physical, psychological, and medical services, the new program will also deal with transportation needs, kosher meals on wheels, and adult day care.

“We are in the process of laying this out to the community,” he said, adding that he expects “a slight avalanche” of inquiries.

Berkowitz said he expects that a lot of referrals will come from family members, “first from out-of-state kids with a family member here.”

“There are so many older folks in our community who find themselves in this situation,” said Peckar, pointing out that costs under the new program will be “extraordinarily competitive” and that Medicare also will pick up many of the charges.

As for those who will be asked to pay out of pocket, “We’ll have a conversation about their ability to pay and plan to raise funds to have a sufficient amount for those who cannot afford it.”

Most of the services will be provided by vendors with whom Jewish Home already has a contractual agreement.

“We’re trying not to invent the wheel,” said Peckar, “[and we’re] trying to avoid the impression of competition. If a sister agency can provide a service, we’re happy to work with them.”

Lilly cited the idea behind the program. “It’s the philosophy of respect for the elder person and their values, and involving them in the process as much as [possible]….. They see changes and feel vulnerable. You need to be perceived as someone who will help them achieve their own goals.”

For more information about the program, call Lilly at (201) 750-4247.

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