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entries tagged with: Jewish Home Assisted Living


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.


Making lives wonderful for the elderly

Charles Berkowitz marks 40 years, takes lead on Jewish Home at Home

Charles Berkowitz, the 69-year-old president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family who is marking 40 years with the Jewish Home this year, has no intention of slowing down.

“I feel good,” he said. “I like what I’m doing, and I like who I’m working for, and who I’m working with.”

The organization will honor Berkowitz for his four decades of service at its Oct. 24 95th-anniversary gala. Berkowitz is credited for leading the way for the opening of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and the Jewish Home Assisted Living, major fund-raising for Jewish Home programs through the years, and launching the Jewish Home at Home program last year.

“There’s a very strong positive reinforcement when you’re dealing with the elderly,” Berkowitz told The Jewish Standard. “It’s a population that’s needy and appreciative of what you do for them.”

Only 4 percent of the elderly population ends up in nursing home facilities, Berkowitz said. To address the needs of the aged who want to remain in their homes, the Jewish Home unveiled its Jewish Home at Home program earlier this year, under Berkowitz’s guidance.

“We will take care of people who never get into nursing homes,” he said.

Charles Berkowitz

Demand to get into a Jewish Home facility is high and, according to Berkowitz, its facilities have an almost 99 percent occupancy rate — 180 people in Rockleigh and 124 in River Vale. The Jewish Home at Home program will ease demands on inpatient care and delay when people actually need to enter a nursing home. The program will also acclimate people to the idea of a nursing home if and when they need one later, Berkowitz said.

“We’ll be in a position to help those people,” he said. “When their time comes and they need the Home, they’ll be way up on the waiting list.”

Berkowitz’s work with the Jewish community began while he was a Yeshiva University graduate student in social work on a scholarship from the Englewood predecessor to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades. The understanding was that he would work for the JCC after graduation. After a recommendation from then-JCC director George Hantgan, the Jewish Home offered Berkowitz a job in 1970 as an assistant administrator. He became CEO of the Jersey City site in 1982.

“He has been a godsend to the Jewish Home,” said Ary Freilich, chairman of the Jewish Home Family. “It’s hard to imagine that our organization would be where it is had Chuck not been its steward for the last 40 years.”

For about as long as Berkowitz has been involved with the Jewish Home, so has Sandra Gold, president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, who began her work with the organization shortly before his arrival.

“Chuck’s role … is so important because the Home has never stood still in its desire to meet the needs of aging people, particularly the Jewish aged,” said Gold. “He has the wonderful capacity to be both a passionate social worker and a skilled nursing home administrator, combined with the ability to visualize the big-picture needs of those who are aging.”

Berkowitz serves also on the boards of the Adler Aphasia Center and the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities. He continues to inspire others, said Gold, also a member of those boards.

“He is capable of inspiring leadership in those around him,” she said.

As the Jewish Home moves closer to the 100-year mark, Berkowitz has his sights set on continued growth. He dismissed rumors of his retirement, circulating because a new administrator is being brought on board to run the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. Berkowitz will instead focus his efforts on growing the Jewish Home at Home and running the umbrella organization, Jewish Home Family. Berkowitz foresees physical expansion to meet the needs of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and Jewish Home at Home. He also pointed to the need for fund-raising, particularly since 20 percent of the Jewish Home at Home care will be given to people unable to afford such care on their own.

Through the Jewish Home at Home program, a geriatric care manager will assess a candidate’s home and work on a care plan with the applicant and perhaps with a social worker or nurse. The Jewish Home then helps fulfill the patient’s needs, which, Berkowitz said, may be as simple as changing a light bulb and helping with chores, or helping with medications.

With many challenges ahead, Berkowitz is looking forward to continuing to aid a vulnerable elderly population.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It makes life worthwhile doing the things I do.”

Charles Berkowitz, a snapshot

Wife: Rachel

Children: 3

Grandchildren: 3

Resides in: Glen Rock

Past leadership roles:

Chair, New Jersey Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging

Chair, Association of Jewish Aging services

Delegate, 1995 White House Conference on Aging

Treasurer, board of directors, UJA Association for the Developmentally Disabled

Treasurer, Adler Aphasia Center

Past accolades:

Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Community Service Award

New Jersey Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging Distinguished Service Award

New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Services Saul Schwartz Award

Solomon Schechter Day School Community Award


Making lives wonderful for the elderly

Jewish Home celebrates its 95th anniversary

The Jewish Home at Rockleigh

What began as a small orphanage in Jersey City in the early 20th century has turned into a major player in how the North Jersey Jewish community cares for its elderly.

The Jewish Home Family will celebrate its 95th anniversary on Oct. 24 with a gala celebration at The Rockleigh, and its supporters are reflecting on its long history.

“There are many interesting and innovative ways to make life wonderful for people who are older and whose children live far away and for whom life has changed dramatically,” said Sandra Gold, president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. “We are in the business of vibrant Jewish living. That is the motivation for everything we do. We want people to live their lives with that quote in mind, ‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.’”

‘It was the place to go’

Founded as the Hebrew Orphans Home of Hudson County in a Jersey City cottage, the organization grew until, in the 1930s, its leaders realized another Jewish population was in need. It became, in a larger building, the Hebrew Home for Orphans and Aged of Hudson County.

During the 1940s the organization added new facilities to expand nursing and custodial care. In the 1950s, the Hebrew Home and Hospital opened its doors to Bergen County residents, as well.

By the 1970s, the Jewish Home was delivering 80 meals a day through Kosher Meals on Wheels and more than 100 clients were getting served by the Jersey City site a day.

The Jewish Home at Rockleigh opened its doors in 2001 and with the opening of the Jewish Home Assisted Living in River Vale in 2007, community leaders decided that a central body was needed.

They created the Jewish Home Family in 2008, which today oversees the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Russ Berrie Home for Jewish Living; the Jewish Home Assisted Living, Kaplen Family Senior Residence, in River Vale; the Jewish Home Foundation of North Jersey Inc. and the Jewish Home & Rehabilitation Center, in River Vale.

“It became apparent that we were sufficiently complex, that we could not have various entities operating totally autonomously,” said Ary Freilich, chairman of the Jewish Home Family. “Rather, we needed to have a common philosophy, common goals, and a common institutional vision.”

For Steven Morey Greenberg, president of the Jewish Home Foundation, supporting the Jewish Home is a family obligation. His grandparents, Mollie and Paul Weisenfeld, helped create the original Jewish Home in 1915.

By the late 1970s, Greenberg was attending Jewish Home functions and following his parents’ and grandparents’ tradition in his contributions to the Jewish Home. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s, however, when Greenberg’s mother, Rhoda, went to live at the Jewish Home in River Vale, that he fully understood the impact of the Jewish Home. During his first meeting to discuss his mother’s care, one of the staff members spoke up and said she could provide the care Greenberg’s mother needed.

“That was a reaffirming thing,” he said. “There she was saying, ‘I can take care of your mother.’ You really have personal contact.”

Personal contact has been a hallmark of the Jewish Home experience for Greenberg. Following the example of the Jewish Home Family’s president and CEO Charles Berkowitz, Greenberg walks the halls of the Jewish Home facilities, interacting with patients and staff. It’s important, he said, to let people know that the volunteer lay leaders are invested in the Jewish Home.

Shiri Redensky, a Jewish Home at Rockleigh board member, and resident Sylvia Contente. Photos courtesy Jewish Home Foundation

“It’s my pleasure to walk … get to know the staff and the residents and the volunteers,” Greenberg said.

While growing up in Livingston at a time when there weren’t that many Jewish communal organizations, Sandra Gold knew that the home in Jersey City was the place to go for Jewish families in need.

“It was the place to go if you needed a place for an aging parent or somebody who needed that kind of intensive care,” said Gold.

When her father and grandmother needed that kind of care, both spent time at Jewish Home facilities.

“I was so grateful to have the home there when I needed it,” she said. “But if you don’t lift a finger beforehand, you can’t expect it to be there. We need everybody to get involved before the need arises.”

Because of Gold’s close relationship with her grandparents, she said, she developed a “deep affection and respect for those who are getting older.”

“A Jewish community has a responsibility to sponsor and support a quality Jewish home for the aged,” she said.

The 1970s was a decade of expansion for the Jewish Home. Its first Bergen County facility opened in River Vale, New Jersey’s first adult day-care program launched at the JHRC in Jersey City; and the Kosher Meals on Wheels program was serving 100 meals a day.

In 1991, the Meals on Wheels program came to Bergen County, and plans were soon under way to build a new facility in Bergen County, a “big moment,” Gold said, that culminated with the opening of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh in 2001.

“When we made the decision to create a facility in Bergen County, even though it was a small one, I thought that was visionary,” she said. “We saw people were moving north and we wanted to be where the needs would be.”

Freilich noted that his own parents spent the last years of their lives in a nursing home, although not the Jewish Home.

“Their circumstances were not easy on them or the rest of us,” he said. “What I witnessed was how a high-quality, caring institution can make a meaningful contribution to dignity and health and freedom from pain, and at the same time make an enormous contribution to the life of children and other family members.”

In 1999, Freilich received a call from his stockbroker, who asked him to make a contribution to the Jewish Home, which led to years of volunteer service, a way, he said, to “indirectly pay back, not to the institution that had supported my parents, but rather to the notion of caring for the elderly.”

Looking toward the future

“There are not a lot of opportunities in life to do good in a setting in which you are encouraged to be creative and to make a difference,” Freilich said. “The Jewish Home is very special in that regard.”

The economy has been rough for many non-profit agencies, but the Jewish Home has weathered the storm, according to Freilich. Still, it is in need not only of donations, but of volunteers, he said.

So many people do not think about nursing homes until their own parents or grandparents need one, Gold said. About 45 percent of the patients in the nursing home are on Medicaid, which does not reimburse the full costs of care, she continued. She pointed to several new board members in recent years who are in their 30s and 40s, and a desire within the board to keep the Jewish Home evolving with new ideas and people.

“Being a volunteer at the Jewish Home is so rewarding,” Gold said. “It really makes a difference in how you feel when you know you can make a difference for people who really need to have that in your lives. You really know you’re doing something important.”

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