Time was, residents of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh received their meals, pre-selected, on trays put together in the kitchen and taken to the units on large carts.
But now, says Carol Silver Elliott — president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family — the seniors in her care have more of a say in what they eat.
“We’ve gone away from the tray line,” Ms. Silver Elliott said, pointing out that the organization has completely shifted to steam tables.
“The food comes up in quantities — hot when it’s supposed to be hot, and cold when it’s supposed to be cold,” she continued. Residents “can choose then and there what they want. They can ask for more, and switch if they don’t want what they ordered.”
If residents have difficulty communicating, staff can show them the options and they can choose without verbalizing. This new system stimulates residents’ appetites “by sights and smells,” Ms. Silver Elliott said.
The Jewish Home’s new approach to food presentation is not strictly about food. Instead, she said, it’s about choice.
What we should be asking, she said, is “What’s important to you? What matters to you in your life?
“We’re working to incorporate the concept of self-determination, regardless of age or illness. They’re adults. It’s important to facilitate their making choices.”
The CEO, who took up her position in November, said that she “came into an organization I saw as being very solid, with a strong history, and saw an opportunity to help grow it.” To that end, she intends to “add some of the newer programs and services to make sure we remain viable in every respect.”
In the long-term care arena, for example, she is looking to import what she learned from her experience at Cedar Village — a not-for-profit retirement community in Cincinnati — in the area of rehabilitation services.
“We expanded our short-term rehabilitation program in Cincinnati and I look forward to doing that here,” she said. “It’s of huge importance, and something we’re spending our time and energy on.”
Since her arrival, Ms. Silver Elliott has spurred the creation of the SeniorHaven Elder Abuse Shelter, the first such facility in New Jersey and the 12th such shelter in the United States. SeniorHaven — profiled in the Jewish Standard in July — offers community education as well as emergency short-term shelter for victims.
“It’s such an important program,” she said, noting that education sessions have been scheduled throughout the community. “We’re in the process of building awareness.”
Also new is a private duty homecare business, @HomeCare.
“I’ve got experience with this,” Ms. Silver Elliott said. “While the laws here are different and the structure is different, the services are the same.” These include the full range of non-medical services for people living in their own homes, from personal hygiene to light housekeeping to driving clients to doctors’ appointments or grocery stores.
“We opened in June, and it’s been growing faster than we anticipated,” she said. “The people that we hire are certified home health aides. We employ some of them in our buildings as well. We’re hiring people as fast as we can,” she added, because of the high demand, “but it’s a good problem to have.”
Ms. Silver Elliott sees the increasing demand for more services in the home as a result not only of an aging population but of the desire to “want to age in place as long as possible.
“I think our role is really to understand as best we can the demographics, market needs, and opportunities, but also what is taking place in the field,” she said. In other words, those who work with the aging need to have a global viewpoint, “both macro and micro.
“The shape of this industry is changing. In my crystal ball, I think we’re going to see an emphasis on people living at home, and we will continue to support people living at home. That’s huge, and we’re working hard on that,” she said, adding that Jewish Home Family also embraces Safely@Home, formerly Bonim Builders.
“Residential care will be provided differently in the future,” she said. “We’re looking to create a smaller, household kind of feeling. People thrive in that kind of environment, and we want to help them thrive as best we can.”
Also, in dealing with the aging of the generation of baby boomers — “the silver tsunami” — she foresees a continuing emphasis on wellness, with seniors asking themselves, “How do I maintain my health and stay as vital and healthy as long as I possibly can?’
“We’re learning new things every day about how to work with elder adults,” she said.
She also is learning more about hospital relationships.
“Every community is unique,” Ms. Silver Elliott said, noting that in this community, relationships with hospitals are an increasingly significant factor when people deal with long-term care. “I’m getting a sense of the landscape.”
Apparently, the new CEO is generating a good deal of excitement in the Jewish Home Family, with the volunteer training program continuing to attract the support staff necessary to maintain all these programs.
“There is a lot of support for change,” she said. “I walked into a group anxious to do these things. The pace of change is accelerating.”
The newfound passion and energy at the Jewish Home Family reflect Ms. Silver Elliott’s own passion and energy.
“I’ve worked in hospitals for a long time in various roles, whether in marketing, communications, fundraising, or strategic planning,” she said. “But I wanted to be a chief executive and knew it would be more difficult to do in healthcare, coming up through a non-traditional path.”
So — to further her goal of running an organization — she took on the leadership of Career Development Services in Rochester, N.Y.
“I loved being a CEO, but I didn’t have the same passion for helping people find fulfillment in their work lives as I did for human services,” she said. “I went to the Jewish Home in Rochester, then to Cedar Village. I love working on long-term care and meeting people’s needs. You have a chance to develop relationships with people.”
In this job, she said, “you can’t help but fall in love. You walk down the hall and get a hug or a kiss, or someone says how nice you look.”
Ms. Silver Elliott said she has derived job satisfaction from “building strong teams, developing really wonderful, supportive relationships with boards, having successful fundraising, and creating new programs and services.” Not only does she want to meet community needs, but “we want to be seen as a vital part of the community,” she said.
So far, the Jewish Home Family has forged working partnerships with the Jewish Family Service, the JCC on the Palisades, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and the Hebrew Home in Riverdale. In addition, said Ms. Silver Elliott — who is the immediate past national chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services — the Jewish Home works closely with state and national groups that serve the elderly.
Because it’s very important to develop a strong strategic plan, the Jewish Home Family is about to embark on that important task as well as on “a master campus plan,” Ms. Silver Elliott said. Because the organization recently bought land next to its existing property, “we need to consider the best way to expand.” She pointed out that the organization commissioned a market research study, conducted by a group that specializes in the needs of senior adults. “We’ll work with the strategic planning committee to develop a business plan” to maximize opportunities, she said.
Ms. Silver Elliott lives in River Vale with her husband, Tom. “All the children are grown,” she said. Between them, they have seven.
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