Los Angeles Jewish Health Wins Prestigious AJAS Award

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Los Angeles Jewish Health Wins Prestigious AJAS Award

Mar 20, 2024

New program at Los Angeles Jewish Health helps seniors achieve their dreams

(RESEDA, CA – March 20, 2024) Los Angeles Jewish Health has been honored by the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS) with its coveted Programming Award. The award recognizes LAJHealth’s innovative Achieve a Dream program, which gives seniors in assisted living an opportunity to find happiness and fulfillment.

Through Achieve a Dream, Los Angeles Jewish Health staff help residents look forward to a future-oriented goal, inspiring a sense of growth and enabling them to reach for something beautiful. Staffers identify a specific desire of the resident—something they are longing for—and help them make it happen.

The program, envisioned by Chief Mission Officer Rabbi Karen Bender and Ilana Springer, Los Angeles Jewish Health’s CEO/administrator, was piloted in the Joyce Eisenberg Keefer (JEK) Medical Center, LAJHealth’s 239-bed skilled nursing facility, where the average resident age is 91.

“When we created the program, we asked ourselves, ‘What would we want for our residents if they were our own mothers and fathers?’” Springer recalled. “The idea was to create experiences that would bring them joy.”

The first resident to benefit from Achieve a Dream was Elaine. When Rabbi Bender visited her room and asked whether there was anything she dreamed of doing, Elaine pointed to the photographs of horses hanging on her bedroom wall.

“She said, ‘Every single day of my life I was with horses, until 10 years ago. I haven’t even seen a horse since. I know I can’t ride, but I just want to spend quiet time with a horse.’” Rabbi Bender said. “So, we arranged to have a horse brought to one of the beautiful courtyards at Los Angeles Jewish Health, and Elaine enjoyed 90 minutes of one-on-one time. For an hour and a half, this was her horse; she had space to have a beautiful moment with an animal that meant the world to her.”

Andy, a stroke survivor, was another Achieve a Dream participant. During his younger years, he had been in a rock band, and he was eager to jam on a bass guitar once again, but his medical condition made that seem impossible. Working with the Los Angeles Jewish Health care team, Rabbi Bender and Springer arranged for a college student who was a music major to bring several electric instruments and help Andy experience “playing” them. Andy’s wife, who witnessed the jam session, said it was one of the most meaningful experiences of their marriage.

The Programming Award was handed out at AJAS’ national conference, which took place in late February in San Diego. Rabbi Bender and Springer were on-hand to accept the award in person.

“We are proud of this award but even prouder that Los Angeles Jewish Health is empowering seniors to come here and live with as much – if not more – fullness and purpose as they had before,” Rabbi Bender says. “This is a place where dreams really can come true.”

Los Angeles Jewish Health Wins Prestigious AJAS Award
Los Angeles Jewish Health Wins Prestigious AJAS Award
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