Dr. Robert Wieder says that turning to Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey for home care for his mother “changed my life.”
His mother Serena, now 87, had been living alone for about nine years after his father died, but things were changing. “She would forget to eat,” Wieder said.
Three years ago, he found a two-family house in Mountainside that provided each of them with their own living space.
Wieder, a cancer researcher, cooked his mother’s meals, fed her her breakfast, and rushed home in the afternoon to give her dinner before she fell asleep. But he has multiple professional roles, and it made for a very rushed routine. A few months back, he contacted JFS. And thanks to a new, for-profit service, the agency was able to provide home care service that met his mother’s needs and Wieder’s budget.
In the past, JFS’s Caregivers at Home program was offered only to those with income too low to cover private care, explained Rochelle Brodsky, the program’s nurse coordinator. But earlier this year, the Elizabeth-based organization, an agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, initiated the for-profit service as way to generate income at a time of government and federation cutbacks, and to help frail clients, both Jewish and non-Jewish, find affordable home care.
Clients can choose to have a certified home health aide or a homemaker to provide personal care, light housekeeping, food preparation, shopping, and, if needed, help getting to doctors’ appointments.
That support can enable people to stay in their homes as they age. “We work with people who are being cared for by a spouse — who’s often quite old themselves — or a family member or friend,” said Brodsky. “They turn to us for help, on a regular basis for as many hours as they need, or now and then, when the caregiver needs a break.”
In addition to that service, the agency works with people who are otherwise capable but use the service for short-term help while recuperating after illness or surgery.
Demand has been growing steadily. “Six months ago we were providing about 60 hours of service; now we’re doing about 100, and that doesn’t include the respite care,” Brodsky said.
JFS is also growing its staff of health aides and homemakers, all of whom are mentored and supervised by registered nurses who serve as case managers for each client.
That in itself is a comfort to clients. “People know our reputation, and they know that when they work with us, they become part of the JFS family,” said Brodsky. “That means they also have access to our social workers and can get help billing their insurance provider, and so on.
“They get a cohesive, comprehensive service.”
The fee for home health aides is $22 an hour on weekdays, $25 on weekends. The homemakers cost $18 and $21 an hour. The service is offered seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Clients or their caregivers can choose from a minimum of 12 hours a week up to eight a day, or 12 in exceptional circumstances.
Wieder sought coverage when he went away for eight days on a business trip. His mother was able to manage on her own at night, and the agency provided coverage eight hours a day. “It made me perfectly comfortable about being away,” he said.
He had looked into other options for Serena’s regular care, he said, but he found them prohibitively expensive or unappealingly impersonal. He and his parents survived the Nazi invasion of Rumania and came to the United States in 1966; the Jewish aspect of the service was comforting.
Now a caregiver — whom Serena calls “my girlfriend” — spends five hours a day with his mother, and feeds her lunch and dinner. “Margarita is really, really nice,” Wieder said. “She is so patient, and…my mother is so much happier — in fact, happier during the week than she is with me on weekends. I have the highest regard for JFS. They have been really wonderful.”
Roz Katz looks after her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, but she works three days a week. When she couldn’t leave him alone any longer, she turned to two different commercial agencies but was appalled by the caregivers they sent. “They were just awful, awful people,” Katz said. “They were yak-yakking on the phone all the time. I wanted something more haimish for him.”
In mid-August she started with JFS, who sends a woman in from 3 to 6 p.m. “Gloria is a sweetheart,” Katz said. The fact that JFS is a Jewish agency “makes me feel better,” she said.
For more information on the Caregivers at Home service, call 908-929-1055, or go to www.Caregiversathome.org.