Nursing Home Reaches Out to Russian-Speakers in Its Midst

When new ownership and management took over at the Golden Slipper Uptown Home in Northeast Philadelphia last year and transformed it into Glendale Uptown Home, part of the reshuffling was a conscious decision to reach out to the Russian-speaking Jewish population.

"We want to service the neighborhood, and if you take a look out the window, you see that the neighborhood is Russian," said Joanne Schwartz, who became the nursing home's administrator just under a year ago.

Schwartz acknowledged that the 2006 sale of the facility — from the Golden Slipper organization to a group of owners led by Barry Feldscher, a New Jerseyan who owns several nursing homes — caused some residents to relocate. It also forced administrators to reconsider aspects of the home's various services.

First, Glendale formed an advisory panel made up of members of the local Russian-Jewish community. Their advice: Don't hire translators as intermediaries; recruit actual service providers who speak Russian.

The administrators did just that, adding doctors, social workers, activity planners, a dietitian, even a cook, all fluent in Russian. All told, Glendale went from having one Russian-speaking staff member to about a dozen.

"If a resident is having chest pains, and they only speak Russian and the staff speaks English, how do you take care of that?" posed Schwartz.

And it's not just about medical care. Schwartz added that previously, some Russian-speaking residents had felt isolated when they roomed with residents who only spoke English.

There are also more cultural and religious programs offered in Russian at the establishment.

On Nov. 13, Glendale officially opened its Russian Unit.

These days, an entire floor is now set aside for Russian-speaking residents. There are currently about 40 of them, out of a total of 240 spaces, but administrators think that the percentage will rise once the word is out.

"The communication is easier," said 81-year-old Albert Timashov, whose wife of 62 years, Yeva, moved to the facility about a month ago. (Social worker Anna Tsybushnik acted as a translator for Timashov.)

The Kiev native served as a Soviet pilot in World War II and met Yeva during the war. He said that they've been through everything together, and now he takes comfort in the fact that he can speak directly with some of her caregivers.

Timashov, who has lived in the area since 1993, added that staff members "are very polite, they are good by heart, and they try their best."



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