Both those who need help in their homes and those providing it will benefit from the new venue for the training of home health aides at the Jewish Family Service of Central NJ headquarters in Elizabeth.
Training that used to be held in a cramped and uncomfortable room will now take place in a new space, created in the basement of the JFS building on Westfield Avenue, that is bright and airy and much larger.
The $28,000 renovation will make training “more efficient and effective,” JFS president David Levenberg told the community leaders, supporters, and staff members gathered for the official opening on July 24.
The agency provides certified home health aides to 225 clients a week. The aides last year spent a total of 35,000 hours, working under the supervision of registered nurses, helping clients with personal care, exercise, meal preparation, light housekeeping and helping to ensure that they are eating and drinking enough.
“Ensuring that aides are highly trained and trustworthy is important for us, and it’s important for the community,” Levenberg said. “We can’t just throw people out to do this; we wouldn’t put our clients or our staff at risk that way.”
The agency has worked in coordination with a consortium of social service organizations for a number of years, functioning under the auspices of the Union County Division on Aging, which funds the Home Health Aide Training Program. For the past three years, JFS has served as the lead agency for the group, providing training for over 120 aides — for their own staff of around 50 home aides, and for its partner agencies, like Holy Redeemer, SageEldercare, and the Center for Hope Hospice. It also does the crucial pre-screening of applications.
The numbers, said division director Frances Benson, are the best in the program’s history. The trainees, she added, “have graduated with a level of pride and a sense of self-worth that surpasses anyone’s expectations.”
Training involves 14 classes over four weeks and is structured according to the guidelines of the NJ Board of Nursing, at a cost to participants of only $75.
The new space was designed — for free — by architect Larry Appel of the Union-based Appel Design Group. He attended the opening with the two men responsible for getting the work done, JFS board member Mark Ginsburg and longtime JFS benefactor Mark Wilf of Garden Homes.
Among those present was Brunilda Moriarty, executive director of the Hyde and Watson Foundation, which — together with the EJ Grassmann Trust and the Union Foundation — provided funding for the refurbishing. The JFS headquarters building was expanded in 2006-07, but at the time there wasn’t sufficient funding to fully finish the basement.
JFS executive director Tom Beck was gratified by the turnout. “It shows the community appreciates how important this work is,” he said. According to figures cited by the agency, care of the growing elderly population will require five million direct-care workers in 2020, up 49 percent from the 2010 level.
Maria Mullen, JFS’s director of nursing and head of the home health aide program, watched the proceedings with former director of nursing Karen Winter, RN, who still participates as a trainer, and their nursing colleagues. The new room, they agreed, will make the task a whole lot easier, with its additional beds, air conditioning, and a sink with hot and cold running water.
That last item is particularly welcome, they said. A crucial part of the training is learning to give patients a bed bath, and the trainees have to practice on one another. “We didn’t have a sink like this before. This will be so much better,” declared JFS nurse Renee Unterman.