So Very Much to Be Grateful For This Season
Andrew Berman, Chair, and Dale Surowitz, President & CEO As we enter the month of November, known for giving and giving thanks, we would like to take this opportunity to reach out and share our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all of the support provided to the seniors of Los Angeles Jewish Health. Once again, your donations, coupled with the outstanding work of our Los Angeles Jewish Health teams, meant our High Holidays were moving and meaningful for all who participated. Our outstanding rabbinical leaders were joined by dozens of additional staff from across departments including Dietary, Housekeeping, Activities, Information Systems, Maintenance and many others, who came together to produce special events and programming that resonated with all who participated. We are also grateful that, this year, we were able to open our campuses to a modest number of family members to join with their loved ones in person for services, even as we continued to follow all ongoing health regulations still in place due to COVID-19. May next year bring even bigger services, gatherings and celebrations! For everyone who has supported the work of Los Angeles Jewish Health this year, as we care for nearly 4,000 older adults, nearly 80% of whom are at or near national poverty levels, you have our collective thanks and deep appreciation. With the coming of Giving Tuesday on November 29, and as you make your year-end gifts; please consider contributing to Los Angeles Jewish Health. As our senior population continues to grow exponentially now and into the future, we are proud and privileged to be available to serve them. Without your support, we could not provide these outstanding services and programs or the award-winning care our seniors so richly deserve. Warmest regards and best wishes for the holiday season. Andrew Berman Dale Surowitz Chair, Board of Directors Chief Executive Officer & President
Los Angeles Jewish Health A Leader in Telehealth for Seniors
Identifying impactful ways to optimize the well-being of older adults is a central focus of our work at Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJHealth). We are constantly seeking innovative approaches to raising the bar on clinical care, and our telehealth program is a case in point, leveraging leading-edge technology to ensure our seniors can thrive. Launched with funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which selected LAJHealth as the lead grantee in California to pilot a telehealth program, our organization's initiative deploys state-of-the-art mobile carts—each equipped with a tablet computer, digital stethoscope and otoscope, a camera, speaker/microphone system and WIFI— throughout Los Angeles Jewish Health campuses, enabling physicians to care for patients, from a distance, in an individualized and caring way. Whether for routine visits or to assess changes in medical condition, telehealth appointments offer patients, families and physicians a wide range of critical advantages. "In any discussion of the telehealth program, it's first important to stress that this is not just doctors seeing residents over Zoom or FaceTime," notes Noah Marco, MD, chief medical officer with Los Angeles Jewish Health. "These are highly sophisticated, patient-centered encounters through which we are actually able to hear and evaluate heart and lung sounds, look inside patients' ears and mouths, and see their tiniest skin lesions." "Our experience has been that, once patients and their loved ones become comfortable with the technology involved, the benefits of telehealth are immediately apparent to them," he says. Patient convenience is one of the major benefits. "For many of our residents, travel to and from physicians' offices can be challenging at best, causing them to disrupt their routines to do what's convenient for their doctor," Dr. Marco says. "Telehealth alleviates this burden, allowing them to check in with their doctors and share any concerns from the comfort of their own rooms." Anton Domingo, a registered nurse and LAJ Health's telehealth program manager and quality analyst, says the telehealth consults are particularly helpful when a resident is experiencing a change in condition. "In more urgent situations, when we need to determine whether a resident may need to be transferred to the hospital, a telehealth appointment gets the doctors' eyes on the patient almost immediately, allowing the provider to see the patient and correlate the data provided with the patient's status in real time," Anton says. "This translates to better, more informed decision-making about the necessity of hospital transfers, which ultimately means less strain on—and less cost for—our residents." In fact, according to data gathered by LAJHealth as part of this pilot program, telehealth visits lessened the need for nearly 20 percent of transfers to acute care facilities. The pandemic has further highlighted the wisdom of including telehealth options in patient care. "For instance, say a patient needs to be in isolated care due to a transmittable disease, we can dedicate a telehealth cart to that area, making sure the resident has easy and timely access to the provider he or she needs for their care," Anton says. The telehealth program also lets residents' families play a more active role as a member of their comprehensive care team. "When the patient, the provider and a family member come together, we get more and better information, and the quality of the care inevitably improves," Dr. Marco says. "Family members really benefit from hearing from their loved ones' physicians directly because it puts everyone on the same page and ensures we answer everybody's questions in a comprehensive way." Erit Siegal and her mother Katherina Schaffer That was the case for Erit Siegal, whose mother, 97-year-old Los Angeles Jewish Health resident Katherina Schaffer, signed up to participate in the telehealth program. "My mom, who is originally from Czechoslovakia and survived three different concentration camps, is miraculously healthy and 100 percent cognitively fine. She's one tough cookie," Erit says. "She moved to LAJHealth about a year ago. When she needed some routine care, she saw Dr. Marco via telehealth, and I was on the call, as well." "It was a good experience," she continues. "Dr. Marco asked questions, my mom answered, and I was there, watching and listening the whole time. It was super convenient, especially during COVID, because we got the attention we needed while minimizing interruption to my mom's day and limiting the exposure she (and other residents) would have had if I had needed to come to campus for the appointment." LAJHealth currently has 25 telehealth carts; 12 of them are deployed across four different facilities, resulting in more than 40 virtual visits so far this year. It's a promising start, and plans are for the program to expand. That expansion – and the program itself—are the result of generous support not just from the FCC, but also from numerous individuals and foundations. "We've seen telehealth add real value for so many of our residents, and we look forward to making the program even more accessible going forward," Dr. Marco says. "At Los Angeles Jewish Health, we work to give each of our seniors every health advantage possible."
At Los Angeles Jewish Health, High Holy Days Bring Blessing of Community
Los Angeles Jewish Health residents always approach the High Holy Days with a sense of deep appreciation for having reached the start of another New Year. This year, our seniors have found even more reason to be grateful: the loosening of COVID restrictions to allow residents to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones. "It's hard to put into words how exciting it is that, this year during the High Holy Days, we've finally been able to invite a small number of family members back onto our campuses," says Rabbi Karen Bender, Los Angeles Jewish Health's chief mission officer. "Over the past several years, in order to keep residents as safe as possible, we were mandated to hold off on inviting visitors to campus, so these High Holy Days have really signaled a dramatic, welcome change." Rabbi Bender says services have been packed and that events leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were equally well attended. "We held an apple and honey tasting across multiple campuses, which was really wonderful," she says. "Taste and smell are two of the most powerful ways to conjure up memories that can engage our residents and inspire them to share their thoughts, feelings and life experiences." According to Rabbi Bender, the apples and honey gatherings were significant for another reason, as well. "I like to point out to our residents that we don't hand people apples already dipped in honey; we give them the apples, and they dip them on their own," she says. "It's a symbol that every individual has the ability to influence the sweetness in his or her own life. We're more empowered than we think, and I believe that's a critical message for our incredible population of seniors." The run-up to the holidays also included a special mitzvah project: Residents gathered together to assemble fully-stocked backpacks for students in need. Sponsored by generous Los Angeles Jewish Health donor Bill Prady, co-creator of the Emmy Award-winning television sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," the project allowed residents to partner with School on Wheels, a nonprofit organization that fields approximately 4,000 requests each year for backpacks from students experiencing homelessness. Los Angeles Jewish Health participants worked a fun assembly line-style to fill the backpacks with school supplies such as paper, pencils and folders, as well as special items such as puzzles, books and science kits. "Jewish tradition teaches that we are inscribed in the Book of Life at Rosh Hashanah, and that the book is sealed at Yom Kippur," Rabbi Bender says. "One of our goals with the backpack project was to fulfill the commandment of the High Holy Days machzor (prayer book), which encourages us to focus these Days of Awe on tefilah (prayer), tzedakah (charity) and t'shuvah (repentance). This project enabled seniors to perform an act of tzedakah, and they were so happy to be a part of it." Their enthusiasm, Rabbi Bender notes, was beautiful to see. "A significant percentage of our residents are recipients of other people's good deeds, whether it's our donors, our volunteers or members of the larger community. It's challenging for them to find opportunities to give back and make a difference the way they used to, when they were more independent," she says. "Through this project, they were able to realize they can still do things to help other people. It was truly thrilling to watch and was easily one of the most moving things I've done in my time here." As they were filling backpacks, dipping apples in honey and singing at in-person holiday services, our residents enjoyed the benefits of built-in community that living at Los Angeles Jewish Health makes possible. "How many people in their 90s get to be with their peers at holiday time?" Rabbi Bender asks. "Not many, which is why our events this year have been so meaningful. It's such a blessing and a privilege to belong to this community."
Comedy and Camaraderie at Los Angeles Jewish Health
Michael Preminger is always quick to find the joke. It's a quality the veteran stand-up comedian, who has been performing on some of the nation's most prestigious stages for decades, brings with him as a dedicated volunteer at Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJH). "The residents at Los Angeles Jewish Health are hilarious and such a joy to be around," Michael says. "When I first started volunteering, I asked a lady named Edna, who was 104, whether she would ever consider dating younger men. Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, 'Are there any other kind?'" That camaraderie and humor have been bringing Michael back to LAJHealth as a volunteer for more than 10 years. Career success was professionally satisfying (his many television appearances have included The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Dinah Shore Show, and more. He also co-wrote the critical and commercial hit Nothing in Common starring Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason), but it is his weekly visits to LAJHealth that give him rich personal rewards. "I've learned so much from the residents and have gained a lot of wisdom. I remember one woman named Rita who would say in Yiddish, 'Vos geven iz geven'—essentially, 'What was, was.' I think it's a very profound way of looking at the world, essentially acknowledging that we can't recapture the past, we can only look ahead," Michael says. One of the things he loves most about volunteering at LAJHealth is hearing residents' stories. "One person told me she went dancing with the Dodgers when they were still in Brooklyn!" he exclaims. "These folks have done such incredible things, and through their stories, I feel I've been all over with them, from Brooklyn to Buenos Aires." Michael himself has New York roots: Born in the Bronx, he headed to Los Angeles in 1975 to pursue his passion for showbusiness. He raised a son and a daughter while climbing the rungs of comedy stardom. Now a grandfather, his touring days have slowed down, and he is able to enjoy other pursuits like giving back to Los Angeles Jewish Health. "I mainly do trivia with the residents, quizzing them on old movies, TV shows, and music," he says. "Some of them really know their stuff, and the questions lead to super interesting conversations about their lives." As a veteran of the entertainment industry, Michael would like to see more of his colleagues doing their part to uplift older adults at LAJHealth. "Especially in this town, where you have thousands of actors and comedians just sitting around all day waiting for their agents to call, I'm astounded by how few people make it a priority to volunteer," he muses. "They have the time; they should come join us!" Michael arrives at LAJHealth every Tuesday and Thursday like clockwork, and he says it's consistently the highlight of his week. "Volunteering here is one of the best things I've ever done in my life; it's so fulfilling, and I get such a high from it," he says. "The hours between Tuesday and Thursday always feel too long—I just can't wait to come back!" Los Angeles Jewish Health is currently recruiting volunteers of all ages (18 and up) – from individual adults to school groups and synagogue youth groups. Contact Stacy Orbach, director of volunteer services, for more information: (818) 774-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Understanding Skirball Hospice: A Q&A with Dr. Noah Marco
Among Los Angeles Jewish Health's many exceptional programs and services, Skirball Hospice stands out. Our skilled, compassionate end-of-life care provides patients and their families with critical support during one of life's most challenging times. We are proud to be a nurturing, collaborative partner in helping to meet their needs. It can be confusing to understand the difference between hospice care and palliative care. Below, Los Angeles Jewish Health's chief medical officer, Noah Marco, MD, sheds light on what distinguishes each and offers an introduction to what makes Los Angeles Jewish Health the right choice for these services. Question: What is hospice, and when should someone consider it? Answer: Hospice services should be considered by an individual whose doctor believes his or her life expectancy may be less than six months. The decision to enroll in hospice is usually made when a life-limiting condition is believed to be advancing, when medical intervention has reached its maximum benefit, and when a patient or their representative decides to focus on maintaining comfort and symptom management at home rather than in a hospital setting. Hospice is a federal benefit that provides additional services not usually covered by other insurance plans. Q: What is the difference between hospice and palliative care? A: Palliative care helps optimize quality of life by anticipating (or preventing) any form of pain and suffering rather than treating an underlying disease. Qualifying individuals do not have to meet the strict criteria requirements of hospice to receive this care. The focus of palliative treatment is both on meeting the patients' physical needs with regard to symptom management and the psychological, spiritual, and social challenges diseases create. Many individuals start in palliative care until they meet the care criteria for hospice. Palliative care can be provided in a hospital, cancer center, nursing home, outpatient clinic, hospices, or in the patient's home. Q: Where does Skirball Hospice care take place? A: Hospice services are offered wherever the person is residing. Currently, 30% of Skirball Hospice patients are residents of Los Angeles Jewish Health, and 70% are community residents in the San Fernando Valley, West Los Angeles, and surrounding cities. The very first visit can even occur in the hospital. One of the advantages of Skirball Hospice is that our clinicians go to people's homes rather than requiring patients to find transportation to a clinic or doctor's office. Q: What differentiates Skirball Hospice among other, similar hospice services? A: Founded in 2002, Skirball Hospice is the only Jewish-sponsored nonprofit hospice in the greater Los Angeles area. It has a well-deserved reputation for high quality, caring service. Though our program has its roots in Jewish values, we proudly serve people of all faiths and backgrounds. We work with a variety of payors including Medicare, Medi-Cal, and most private insurances, and because we are a not-for-profit agency, no one is ever denied service because of inability to pay. Q: What type of support does Skirball Hospice provide family members, both during hospice and after the passing of a loved one? A: Whereas routine medical care can often focus on the individual patient, providing little or no support to family and friends who may also be impacted by the burdens of disease, the dedicated staff members at Skirball Hospice offer families compassionate assistance from the very first contact. Our response team is available to meet in the home or at a hospital or care facility. Our bereavement staff is trained and experienced in the areas of counseling, chaplaincy, spirituality, end-of-life, grief, and loss. Bereavement support at Skirball Hospice includes ongoing planned contact with the family through visits, telephone calls, letters, an annual memorial service, and referrals to community resources such as support groups. All participants in the bereavement program receive a comprehensive series of mailings on a monthly basis to help reflect on their loss and assist with the grief and recovery process. Our support continues for 13 months, covering an entire cycle of holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries and helping family members maintain or regain their level of well-being. For more information, call Skirball Hospice at (877) 774-3040.
Noah Marco, MD, Tapped for Prestigious Spot on Statewide Healthcare Association Board
This summer, Los Angeles Jewish Health's own chief medical officer, Noah Marco, MD, was appointed to the board of directors of the California Association of Long-Term Care Medicine (CALTCM)—a highly visible organization on the statewide healthcare landscape. During his two-year term, Dr. Marco will join other CALTCM board members to help ensure the quality of skilled nursing facility care in California. Founded in 1975 as the California Association of Medical Directors, CALTCM is the professional organization for California physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrators, and others working in long-term care. The group is at the forefront of statewide efforts to advocate for quality patient healthcare, provide long-term care education, and influence policy. "I am thrilled to be serving on the CALTCM board and feel gratified to have this opportunity to give back to the community," Dr. Marco says. "It's also a privilege to be able to raise the profile of Los Angeles Jewish Health even further through my service by shining a light on LAJH's innovative efforts to make a difference in the lives of older adults and their families."
Los Angeles Jewish Health's Fountainview at Eisenberg Village Welcomes New Residents at Discounted Rates
In a world of rising prices and spiking inflation, it has become increasingly hard to find exceptional value. Yet, that is precisely what is currently offered for prospective residents at Los Angeles Jewish Health's Fountainview at Eisenberg Village independent living community. For a limited time, the facility's entrance and monthly fees are the lowest in the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area. Soon to be honored with the Los Angeles Daily News' popular Readers' Choice award for "Best Retirement Community," Fountainview at Eisenberg Village has made a conscious choice to hold down costs for older adults considering a move. "We have a remarkable community that provides incredible all-inclusive care, and we want to advance our mission of making that care available to a broader group of people," says Larissa Stepanians, Los Angeles Jewish Health's chief operating officer. "Our goal is to help older adults across Los Angeles take advantage of the full spectrum of our programs and services." The scope of those programs and services is vast. "Fountainview at Eisenberg Village is essentially like a cruise ship on land," notes Adam Peña, the community's executive director. "From our fitness center and spa to our movie theater and beauty salon, we have it all. And that's on top of the world-class healthcare that is tailored to suit each resident's needs." Fountainview at Eisenberg Village's on-campus clinic and skilled nursing facility give residents critical peace of mind, knowing they can access those services seamlessly—as necessary, and without having to leave the comfort of their home environment. "You can see your general practitioner, consult a medical specialist, or get physical therapy, all right here on site," Adam says. "As you age and may experience a decline in function, we're here to give you comprehensive support." That support includes clinical oversight by a highly skilled registered nurse who is on call around the clock. Many individuals and couples who move to Fountainview at Eisenberg Village come for the robust and stimulating socialization. "We have so many activities here. Imagine wonderful classes like yoga and tai chi, plus countless opportunities to meet people and make new friends who are your same age and at your same level of cognition," Larissa says. "Because it's all-inclusive, residents also get things like delicious kosher meals, which can be delivered directly to their apartments, as well as transportation when they want to go off campus. And we're pet-friendly!" For many residents, living at Fountainview at Eisenberg Village during COVID-19 has helped get them through the pandemic. "Whereas isolation and loneliness have impacted so many older adults living alone over the past two and a half years, our residents have actually thrived during the pandemic," Larissa says. "Whether it was getting them early access to the vaccine or giving them the technology and tools to communicate virtually with loved ones, we enabled residents to stay healthy and connected." Resident Joy Picus, a long-time Los Angeles Jewish Health fan who served for 16 years as a member of the Los Angeles City Council, found Fountainview at Eisenberg Village to be a refuge during a time of global upheaval. "We're much safer here because we don't have to go anywhere that could expose us, since all the amenities we want are provided for us on campus!" she says. With entrance fees from as low as $399,000, the time has never been better to embrace all that Fountainview at Eisenberg Village has to offer. To learn more, contact Adam.Pena@jha.org or (818) 654-5531.
Los Angeles Jewish Health Residents Share Stories From the Shoah
Helene Kapel and her daughter Alicia Martin With each passing year, the number of survivors of the Holocaust continues to dwindle. At Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJH), we are privileged to care for some of these exceptional individuals, and we are dedicated to helping them preserve their incredible stories of triumph and resilience. This year, Los Angeles Jewish Health teamed up with the Providence Institute for Human Caring (a nonprofit organization affiliated with Providence, one of the nation's largest health systems) to document the histories of survivors who reside at Los Angeles Jewish Health. In total, 11 residents ranging from 79 to 98 years-old shared their stories; the interviews yielded both video and audio recordings. "It was a humbling experience—and a true honor—to capture these narratives," says Scott Acord, the Providence Institute's communications and external affairs manager. "These folks and their families had their lives and livelihoods stolen from them simply because they were Jewish. Yet, somehow, they persevered. They possess an inner strength I'm not sure I'll ever have." The interviews were conducted as part of Hear Me Now, an initiative founded by the Providence Institute for the purpose of recording personal histories as a way to make healthcare more humane. For many years, Hear Me Now partnered with StoryCorps, a project that gained national prominence when it became a regular feature on National Public Radio. As with StoryCorps, recordings from Hear Me Now are archived at the Library of Congress. Caroline Weingarten "Sharing stories, and learning about those in our community, is one important way of building a society that prioritizes personalized care," Scott says. "The interviews with Holocaust survivors fall under our ‘faith-based and cultural traditions' category. Providence is a Catholic-based organization, and it's important to us to forge connections with members of other faith communities." Those connections are what enabled the Los Angeles Jewish Health-Providence Institute collaboration in the first place. Prior to assuming the role of CEO and president for Los Angeles Jewish Health, Dale Surowitz had a long and successful career with Providence, most recently as CEO of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. Dale's relationship with his peers at Providence was the initial impetus for the two nonprofits (Los Angeles Jewish Health and the Providence Institute) to team up through Hear Me Now. Leading the interviews were Los Angeles Jewish Health's own Annette Weinberg, lifestyle and enrichment director, Katie Abelson, director of social services, and Susan Leitch, safety officer and community manager. The interviews lasted between 15 and 60 minutes each. Edited versions of the conversations will be available online at hearmenowstories.org; the full interviews will be accessible on the StoryCorps website. "We were blessed to record these stories and to be witness to these first-person accounts of such a pivotal moment in history," Scott says. "Going forward, they'll be a vital resource for future generations." You may listen to Carolyn Weingarten's story "Fleeing to Palestine" by clicking here. Be sure to check back over the summer on the Los Angeles Jewish Health Website - lajhealth.org. We’ll be posting additional stories as they are shared with us.
A New Name for the Los Angeles Jewish Home: Los Angeles Jewish Health
As it continues to build on more than a century of providing an array of high-quality residential living options and care for older adults in Southern California, the Los Angeles Jewish Home is unveiling a new name: Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJH). The updated identity reflects our commitment to offering area older adults a full complement of exceptional programs and services and a comprehensive continuum of care – whether that care is at home, in the community, or on one of our beautiful campus settings. With a new name and a continued focus on meeting diverse needs, Los Angeles Jewish Health meets older adults where they are in life, providing a customized experience. “Over the years, as the needs of our community members have grown and changed, we have evolved, too, expanding the scope of healthcare services we provide. It is now the right time to transition to a name more reflective of the vast array of older adult care services and living options available through Los Angeles Jewish Health, while still remaining true to our mission and Jewish values,” says Dale Surowitz, CEO and President of Los Angeles Jewish Health. The values piece is at the core of Los Angeles Jewish Health’s distinguished history of service, Dale notes, and nothing about that is changing. “We are committed to our roots, and we’re the same organization we’ve always been, with rabbis on staff to help celebrate Jewish holidays, share Jewish teachings, and care for all those we serve with the same quality of care, respect, kindness, and compassion that has been the reputation of the Jewish Home for over a century,” he says. “But we also want to make sure people know that all are welcome here – that anyone can come and receive the kind of quality care, service, and attention we’ve always been known for.” Shifting demographics mean Los Angeles Jewish Health is increasingly serving a more diverse population of older adults. By 2030, one in five Americans are projected to be older individuals. Older adults 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of this population and are expected to increase five-fold over the next 30 years, from four million in 2000 to 21 million in 2050. Los Angeles Jewish Health has kept pace with these trends: What began as a modest residential facility at the turn of the previous century has grown into a one of the nation’s leading health systems for older adults, providing for a rapidly expanding elder population with a broad range of geriatric and specialty healthcare needs. “The Los Angeles Jewish Home name served us well for more than 100 years, but it doesn’t describe what we do now as an organization,” says Andrew Berman, chair of Los Angeles Jewish Health’s board of directors. “We are a healthcare organization for older adults, and although people do reside with us, we offer so many other services beyond what you would expect from just a ‘home.’ Our new name encompasses much more while also honoring and respecting the past and better describing who we are, what we do, and where we’re heading.” Going forward, as we continue to reach new segments of the growing older adult population, the LA community will continue to benefit from the same remarkable, standard-setting care. “As we have for more than 100 years, we will dedicate ourselves to contributing Los Angeles Jewish Health’s extensive experience and medical expertise toward better health outcomes for all older adults,” Dale says. “At Los Angeles Jewish Health, that’s a promise!”