Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog


Celebrating and Reflecting

Celebrating And Reflecting The holidays are a special time to spend with friends and family. Gathering together for a festive meal, telling stories, sharing a laugh…it's all great fun. In today's world, it's common for families to be spread across the country. For many families, the holidays may be the only opportunity to be together. It's a great time to catch up and talk about experiences and plans for the future.

For adult children with aging parents, it's also a chance to reflect on how your loved ones are doing, both physically and mentally. The difference from one holiday to the next may be subtle, or shocking. In order to help your parents stay healthy and safe, the Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions:

Are your parents taking care of themselves? Pay attention to their appearance: Are they keeping up with their personal grooming? What about their clothes — are they clean or in disrepair? Are your parents experiencing memory loss? Modest memory problems are a fairly common part of aging, such as forgetting appointments or where the keys are. Are memory changes more concerning, such as forgetting common words when speaking, getting lost in familiar neighborhoods, or being unable to follow directions? 

Are your parents safe in their home? Is it tidy or is it uncommonly messy or dirty? Are there repairs that are being neglected? Is it safe, meaning grab bars or hand rails in place where needed, no loose rugs or mats to trip on, well lit, and smoke and/or carbon monoxide monitors and alarms are functioning? Are your parents safe on the road? If your parents become confused while driving or you're concerned about their ability to drive safely, it may be time for them to stop driving. This can be a difficult loss of independence. Many seniors make the transition by utilizing a service, such as Access or Access-a-Ride, or other local options.

Have your parents lost weight? Losing weight without trying could be a sign that something's wrong. Are your parents having difficulty preparing their meals? They may have lost their sense of taste or smell. An underlying medical condition could also be the cause, such as malnutrition, dementia, depression or cancer.

Are your parents in good spirits? A drastically different mood could be a sign of depression or other health concerns. According to AgingCare.com, signs include: an “empty” feeling, ongoing sadness, and anxiety; tiredness, lack of energy; loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities; sleep problems; eating more or less than usual; crying often; aches and pains that don't go away when treated; difficulty in focusing, remembering or making decisions; feeling guilty, helpless, worthless or hopeless; feeling irritable; thoughts of suicide or death. Listen carefully to see if your loved one is asking for help.

Are your parents able to get around? Do they seem to have any difficulty in walking around the house or usual distances? Are they having problems walking up and down stairs? Do they seem steady of their feet? Have they fallen? Falling is a major cause of disability among older adults.

Even if you live far away, here are some tips on how you can help:
Share your concerns with your parents openly and honestly. Consider including other family members or friends in the conversation. This should be done in a caring, compassionate way as it may be a difficult conversation for your parents.

Encourage regular medical checkups. If possible, make arrangements to accompany your parents to the doctor or ask another family member or friend to do so.

Address safety issues. Help make a plan to resolve any possible safety issues.

Consider home care services. This can be as basic as hiring someone to help with cleaning, cooking and errands. If your parents need more assistance, a home health aide can help with bathing, dressing and other activities of daily living. If remaining in their home is too challenging or unsafe, discuss the possibility of moving to an assisted living facility.

Contact their doctor for guidance. If you believe your parents' health and safety are at risk and they disagree, see if their doctor has permission to speak with you about their health and needs.

Seek help from local agencies. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging or Department of Aging for information and resources regarding appropriate services that may be available to assist your aging parents.
Realizing the extent of your parents' aging and their growing needs can be overwhelming. Ask for help — it's available. Working together, seniors and their adult children, family members, friends and other resources can help keep them safe and healthy for years to come.

For more information, please visit the Jewish Home's website at www.jha.org/resources/jewish-home-community-education.asp or call our toll-free Connections to Care hotline at 855-227-3745. We are here to help you and your loved ones.


Urban Zen Comes to the Home

Urban Zen Comes to the HomeThe Los Angeles Jewish Home always strives to promote employee health and wellness. To encourage staff to live a healthy lifestyle, the Home provides a variety of weekly fitness classes exclusively for employees. The newest addition to these classes is Urban Zen. 

Founded by designer Donna Karan, Urban Zen is a holistic healthcare practice which was created to give individuals another option for treating pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, constipation, and exhaustion. Urban Zen combines five techniques — yoga, Reiki, essential oils, nutrition, and contemplative care, such as meditation — and is often used as a supplement to conventional care. Here at the Home, Urban Zen sessions give employees the chance to step away from their hectic office settings and enter into a more tranquil atmosphere where they can find a sense of harmony within themselves.

Vice president of human resources Sharon Ginchansky explains, "At the Jewish Home, we want to help our employees be healthy and happy. A big part of promoting employee wellness is lessening their stress levels and Urban Zen is an excellent way to do this." She reports, "Taking a few minutes out of our day to focus on our own well-being can help us recommit to the work at hand and bring a sense of inner peace. Urban Zen is a great de-stressing practice because it can be as simple as inhaling fragrant oil or focusing on breathing."
While the calming effect of Urban Zen is something that must be experienced to be understood, the following is a description of what happens in a typical session: 

Once in the class, staff members sit on chairs in a room with dimmed lights and are given a few drops of essential oils to rub between their palms. Subsequently, once the oil is spread, participants place their hands close to their faces and inhale the fragrance. Then, the participants are led through a variety of light stretching and breathing exercises. The final activity in the session is a complete body scan. During this relaxing exercise, the instructor leads the class through a meditation that helps participants to get in touch with different regions of their bodies.

Due to its soothing nature, Urban Zen has become a favorite among many employees of the Home. Fund development's Cheryl Kater is an avid fan of the new program. "I'm so glad to have the chance to participate in this incredible activity," Cheryl expressed. "Urban Zen really helps to center me after I've had a busy day at work. The deep breathing and meditation are my favorite parts of the class — there's no better way to get into a relaxed state of mind."


Annenberg School's VN Class of 2015

Annenberg School's VN Class of 2015Offering a variety of classes throughout the year, the Annenberg School of Nursing (ASN) is an ever-bustling hub of education. The school offers three ongoing programs — vocational nurse, nurse assistant, and home health aide. Currently, the vocational nursing (VN) course is in session. 

The vocational nurse program commenced at the beginning of this year with twenty-three students, six of whom have completed Annenberg's nurse assistant course in the past. The twelve month program — which will conclude in February of next year — prepares students for the NCLEX-PN® licensing exam. The class is made up of 17 females and 6 males, with the youngest of the class 18 years old and the oldest student 46 years old.

Although the program is full time, eleven of the twenty-three students enrolled are also working part time. Six are employees of the Jewish Home. Seventeen of the students have applied for financial aid in order to accommodate the costs of tuition.

Once the course is completed, a number of the prospective vocational nurses plan to care for the elderly and quite a few students intend to pursue employment at the Home. Almost all of the students in the VN course have plans to continue their education and become registered nurses. 

Whether they're studying to become a nurse assistant, home health aide, or vocational nurse, students from all walks of life are welcome to discover and master nursing at the Annenberg School of Nursing. Director Marie Cordeiro explains, "We provide our students with an exceptionally supportive and inclusive learning environment so they can acquire the hands-on skills they need to excel in their future careers. There is not a better place in Southern California to study nursing."

If you or someone you know is interested in enrolling in ASN's VN course, the school will host an open house on Tuesday, November 18th at 5:00pm. Space is limited, please call the number below to register. If vocational nursing is not for you, you can learn about ASN's fantastic nurse assistant and home health aide programs by contacting admissions coordinator Cindy Thomas at (818) 757-4431 or Cindy.Thomas@jha.org, or by visiting the ASN website at www.asn.edu.


Exceptional Pharmacists, Excellent Care

Since the day the doors of the Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center (JEKMC) opened in 2007, the facility was equipped with an on-site pharmacy. At the time, Bob Shmaeff, director of pharmacy, commented how it was "uncommon to have a pharmacy in a nursing home." Its location made it possible to deliver medications for residents on a moment's notice.

Exceptional Pharmacists, Excellent CareFive years later, the Jewish Home has taken another huge step to better meet the needs of seniors: the pharmacy is one of only 1,500 sites nationwide accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) for post-graduate training. In Los Angeles alone, approximately 400 students become pharmacists each year, so opportunities for post-graduate work are limited. "This accreditation is major league," says Bob. "This is national recognition that we have the capacity to train and develop exceptional pharmacists."

Bob explains the history of this groundbreaking program. "Two years ago, the Los Angeles Jewish Home entered into an agreement with Western University of Health Sciences, College of Pharmacy (WesternU), to provide training opportunities for pharmacy residents," he says. "Dr. Janice Hoffman (associate professor of pharmacy services and administration at WesternU and liaison between the school and the Home) and I came up with the idea of starting a residency program here." We have had Dr. Hoffman as a faculty-in-residence at the Jewish Home for five years and have seen the value of training pharmacy students at the Home: it is a win-win for all involved. The first resident, Aida Oganesyan, PharmD) completed the PGY1 (Post-Graduate Year 1) program last year. Currently doing her residency at the Home is University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacology graduate Kimberly Appleby.

As a graduate, Kim passed the board exams and is a registered pharmacist in the state of California. The PGY1 program is an excellent opportunity to further her education in a variety of ways. "Through Western University, I'm earning a teaching certificate and am qualified to act as a preceptor for students as they rotate through the Home in their final year of pharmacy school," she says. Another focus of PGY1 is the development of leadership skills as well as preparing for a potential future career in academia. 

At the Home, Kim has become an integral part of a multidisciplinary team providing care for our residents and seniors from the community. Her responsibilities include working with the interdisciplinary teams of the Home's Brandman Centers for Senior Care (BCSC), a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and the Auerbach Geriatric Psychiatry Unit (AGPU). In both programs, she attends team meetings and offers clinical recommendations to the medical staff.  "Our bodies change as we age, and these changes can make us more susceptible to medication side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation, confusion, drowsiness and higher risk of falls," she explains. In particular, antipsychotic and psychotropic drugs can have potentially dangerous side effects. As a pharmacist, I'm able to offer information about the medications and make sure our seniors are receiving the safest and most effective care at the lowest dose." 

In addition to her involvement in BCSC and AGPU, Kim regularly reviews patients' and participants' medication regimens and makes recommendations to the medical staff as needed.

While at the Home, Kim and the preceding resident pharmacist have been part of two research studies. One study focuses on the positive impact of having a pharmacist as part of the AGPU team, including the reduction of number of medications used, particularly antipsychotic and psychotropic meds. Another study is with the USC School of Gerontology. This study concentrate on polypharmacy, or the use of multiple medications, particularly by older patients. "With coordination of care, we hope to decrease the number of meds and the incidence of side effects," explains Kim. The study is focused on seniors in their first year of residence in a nursing home.

For Kim, the first four months of her year at the Home have provided an excellent foundation for the future. "To be integrated into an interdisciplinary team with multiple medical professionals, social workers, dietary, rehab…all under one roof…It's an experience that is not available in the community, the program has made a significant impact. "Before the advent of our relationships with both USC and Western, the pharmacy was primarily involved in dispensing medications," says Bob. "With the development of these partnerships, the opening of the PACE center, and the implementation of the PGY1 program, the pharmacy can now penetrate deeper into the clinical aspects of patient care. It has made a huge difference." He adds, "The role of the pharmacy is expanding beyond traditional dispensing roles, and that requires additional training. Our goal is to take that training and put it into greater perspective so our pharmacists can integrate their knowledge into their day-to-day practice."

Congratulations to the Jewish Home's pharmacy team and administration on receiving the prestigious ASHP accreditation.


Welcome, Rabbi Karen Bender


The Los Angeles Jewish Home is proud to welcome Rabbi Karen Bender as the Jack H. Skirball Director of Spiritual Life. In this position, Rabbi Bender will help us determine and maintain what makes the Jewish Home Jewish.

Welcome, Rabbi Karen BenderRabbi Bender comes to the Home with twenty years of rabbinical experience. Following her graduation in 1988 from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science, she went directly into rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). For the first year, she studied in Israel, as is traditional for this program. Internships led her to Arizona, Idaho (where she was the only rabbi in the state), and Manhattan. After graduation, she served as rabbi at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, Long Island for seven years and then for thirteen years at Temple Judea in Tarzana.

During rabbinical school, Rabbi Bender took some time to study in an Orthodox environment in Jerusalem. "It gave me an opportunity to find some balance … and to live in Israel again," she explains. Israel has a special place in Rabbi Bender's heart: her parents were born there and met and married while serving in the Army. During her childhood, the family visited there regularly. 

In addition to her traditional rabbinical studies and responsibilities, Rabbi Bender is a published author of sermons, poems, academic articles and original prayers. In a new edition of the Reform movement's Rabbi's manual, five of her poems will be included. Over the years, she has been deeply committed to social justice causes, including overcoming prejudice and taking responsibility for the poor and homeless. Rabbi Bender has also been a dedicated leader in bridging the gap between faiths, ethnicities and cultures.

The San Fernando Valley Jewish community — including the Jewish Home — has played an important role in Rabbi Bender's life. Her family are longtime members of Valley Beth Shalom, where her mother taught for fifty years. As a child, she participated in a program through Na'amat and would visit the Jewish Home, playing her guitar for residents. As an adult, she brought her children to the Home to sing for residents. And now, she is part of the Jewish Home family … it must be beshert

Rabbi Bender has always been drawn to seniors. "My grandparents were in Israel, so I didn't get to be with them often," she explains. "My great-grandparents perished in the Holocaust, so there was an absence of elders in my life. I often "adopted" my friends' grandparents to fill the void. Now I have a windfall of wise and wonderful seniors!"

"Here at the Home, I want to continue the wonderful legacy that Rabbi Anthony Elman has created," says Rabbi Bender. "I hope to establish meaningful relationships with our residents and to offer them learning opportunities in addition to spiritual care." She is also interested in the well-being of employees at the Home. "I am very impressed with the morale here," she says. "Everyone seems to feel deeply recognized for playing a part in something important. I want to help sustain that and to understand what that means to individuals on their own spiritual path and how their experience here touches their lives."

Rabbi Bender has many hobbies. They include a variety of outdoor activities, such as wake boarding, river rafting, biking, and horseback riding, often with her three children, ages 16, 14 and 10. "Family is very important to me. My parents and two brothers live in the area, so we all often spend time together." She enjoys theatre and music. She has played seven instruments over the years and is currently taking saxophone lessons. Rabbi Bender is engaged to Ali Sagadencky, a rabbinical student.

On behalf of the residents and staff of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, we welcome Rabbi Bender to our family.