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August 07, 1987 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-07

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Bob McKeown

Annie Huckaby, Jack Pollack and Gertrude Bean play bingo while Harold Feldman sits the round out.

force envisioned that JFS would work
in concert with other agencies since
respite care can be provided in a
variety of settings including day care
at the Jewish Home for Aged, senior
camping at the Butzel Conference
Center, companion service through
the Jewish Vocational Service . . ."
According to Arlene Sukenic, coor-
dinator for the Respite Care Program
at JFS, the two-year-old respite pro-
gram can hardly keep up with the de-
mand, averaging 45 clients at any one
time. Five full-time and three part-
time respite care employees work
under Sukenic.
"We take on those cases when the

Goldie Bank's a winner.

caregiver is at most risk;' Sukenic ex-
plained. "These are people who are
mentally and physically exhausted
and are endangering their own health
because of their tremendous burden
caring for an elderly parent or
Data from clients at JFS from
September 1986 through February
1987 show that almost one-third of
the respite clients were 75 years old
or older. Only six percent were under
60 years of age. In addition, about
one-third of the careneeders were
either stroke patients or suffering
from a form of senile dementia in-
cluding Alzheimer's. At least 15 per-
cent of the careneeders were bedrid-
den with multiple ailments such as
heart problems, arthritis and
Recent studies demonstrate that
benefits from respite care programs
go beyond simply giving family
caregivers extra time and providing
elderly participants with services and
activities. Respite care also seems to
improve relationships among family
members coping with the stress of
For example, a study at the
University of Minnesota showed that
family members participating in
adult day care programs reported that
it helped them better attend to the
older person's needs, that personal
needs and chores benefited
significantly, and that having some
time away from the older person im-
proved the caregivers' feelings toward
that person.
Even so, America's public health
policy has made virtually no response
to the needs of families who provide
patient care. Respite service and day
care programs are scarce and not

universally funded. Federal funding
is limited and most funding is local.
Private insurance plans provide little
assistance to caregivers once the pa-
tient leaves the hospital.
Jewish Family Service clients in
the respite care program do not pay
for the services provided. Funding
from the Federal Area Agency on Ag-
ing limits clients to an average of four
hours of respite service a week or to
168 hours of respite service per year.
Additional funding from the Max
M. Fisher Jewish Community Foun-
dation, the Jewish Welfare Federa-
tion, and the United Foundation pro-
vides more respite care pervices.
"We started the respite program
very slowly and cautiously:' explain-
ed Samuel Learner, executive director
of the Jewish Family Service. "In the
beginning we only had one respite
care worker. We didn't advertise but
the word gets out when there's a need.
To have a viable program today we
need seven or eight full-time respite
workers. Regular caregivers usually
want to continue, but they need sup-
port services for their older relatives
and time off for themselves."
Lerner said JFS plans to ask the
Jewish Community Foundation to ex-
tend its grant. Monies from the
United Foundation pay for one part-
time respite worker and the Jewish
Welfare Federation pays for one full-
time worker.
Lerner feels strongly that the
respite care has to be supported
through other types of fundings such
as endowments.
"We know there's more people to
serve simply by looking at the
demographics. People are living
longer and the older frail population
is increasing rapidly. Many families

simply can't afford to hire someone to
provide private respite care. This is
particularly true for the elderly. How
can you afford to pay someone $7 or
$8 an hour when your own income is
$500 a month? Home care services
and respite care are going to be in-
creasingly needed."
Respite care workers at JFS are
certified nurses aides and have had
some working experience in a
hospital or nursing home. Their jobs
include bathing, grooming, dressing
and feeding. Sukenic keeps in close
touch with the workers, meeting on
a regular basis to discuss clients. In-
service training is also provided
several times a year.
JFS has shied away from publiciz-
ing the respite program because they
were concerned about taking on more
cases than they could handle.
Although most of the clients are
Jewish, the respite program is open
to anyone in Oakland County who is
over 60 and eligible.
"We haven't really encouraged
referrals because of the uncertainty of
funds;' Sukenic said. "Right now
we're serving the maximum number
of clients within the appropriated
Respite care is also provided by
the Jewish Vocational Service, which
matches home health aides to the
"Most of our aides are experienc-
ed and some are certified nurses
aides," said Shirley Schland, director
of Career Development and Job Place-
ment Services. Depending on the
client's needs, the aides provide
around-the-clock or extended services
and will live-in. Generally, the aides
negotiate an hourly fee with their
clients. Few, if any, charge less than



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