Thanks to local groups, more people than ever are able to stay in their homes, despite needing care.
Cindy Citron never wanted her parents Harriet and Alfred to have to move to a nursing home. She felt it would destroy them emotionally and take away their independence.
“I wouldn’t go in a nursing home,” Harriet concurred unequivocally. “We would die there.”
The Citrons aren’t alone: Nursing home care continues to cost three times as much as in-home personal care. Only 4 percent of senior citizens said that they would choose a nursing home over in-home care, according to a 2007 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation.
One organization that helps families like the Citrons deal with this life-changing issue is JEVS at Home (JAH), one of the state’s largest providers of non-medical home care support services to disabled and aging clients.
If Medicaid qualifications are met, families can receive home care support, which, in many cases, can come directly from family members themselves — who can now be paid for the care they were already giving for free. JEVS at Home provides the necessary training and assists in the process of becoming an official caregiver.
The Citron family of the Northeast can attest to the work JAH does. JEVS at Home provides 24-hour care to Harriet and Alfred Citron.
“It would kill him to be in a nursing home,” Harriet reiterated, referring to her husband.
When Alfred was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago, Harriet started to care for him. From bathing, grooming and dressing assistance to a myriad of other daily activities, Harriet was there for her husband.
When Harriet broke her arm three years ago, the couple’s daughter, Cindy, who works full-time as the principal of the Neziner Hebrew School at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City, asked JEVS at Home to provide a caregiver.
Ellen Shimberg, a client care manager for JEVS at Home who arranged for a caregiver named Janice to help the Citrons, explained that people over the age of 60 who think they need help at home can call the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), which will then send out an assessment team to see if assistance is needed. Once PCA deems a family eligible for home care, it works with JEVS at Home to help them.
Having 24-hour care at the Citron home has really changed their lives, Shimberg said. Alfred had just turned 80 and the Citrons had just celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary and ultimately, life is much easier.
“Without the service, Mr. Citron would most likely be in a nursing home,” she said. “The service allows them to stay at home, be a married couple and still see their grandchildren. The longer we can keep people home, the longer they can survive. Families like the Citrons are making it possible for other people.”
At the time, Cindy was spending three to four nights a week caring for her dad, but that all changed the day Janice took a daytime ride with Harriet, only to witness her suffering from a conversion disorder that caused her to pass out.
Janice immediately brought it to Cindy’s attention — and that was the last day Harriet drove. Cindy became an advocate for her parents and would call PCA and JEVS at Home nonstop pleading her parents’ case for receiving full-time home care. With kids, a job and traveling from Delaware, taking on the role of primary caregiver was out of the question.
Ultimately, her advocacy led to 24-hour care for her parents. “It’s unprecedented — people don’t get 24-hour care at home,” she said. “Typically, when you ask someone for help most people want to help you. You can’t expect the state to anticipate what you may or may not need.”
Now, her parents still have their independence and Cindy, her kids and other family members can visit them at home.
“I know that they are safe,” Cindy said.
Al, who has had numerous health issues, including open-heart surgery, back surgery and Parkinson’s, is grateful for his daughter’s help, and thrilled JEVS at Home and PCA granted him and his wife 24-hour care — especially since Janice has become so dear to him. “She’s very knowledgeable. She takes wonderful care of me,” Al said, referring to Janice.
While he appreciates everything being done for him, he misses driving and his job as a salesman, where he sold everything from tobacco to cheesecake.
Cindy understands and sympathizes with her father to an extent. But, she said simply, “You can’t put a price tag on a piece of mind.”
In 2008, Evelyn Lipschutz, 69, a resident of the Northeast, began falling and was put in a nursing home for rehab for a year. She returned home, but has had a number of medical ailments, which caused her daughter Alyssa to become her primary caregiver in 2012. Previously, Alyssa worked in the foodservice industry but, after hearing about JEVS at Home, decided to make the switch.
Alyssa is now a JAH employee, just like the caregivers for the Citrons. JAH provides people with the ability to hire a family member as a caregiver, and it is often the deciding factor as to whether or not a consumer accepts services.
Her father, Stan, 67, had a small stroke in 2011 so his ability to help with her mom diminished. It has also pushed her onto a career path of nursing: She recently got her certified nursing assistant license and will be looking into night nursing school next year.
She doesn’t want to see her parents end up in a nursing home. “I thought they could still be independent if they had help at home,” Alyssa said.
“They love that I’m here helping them,” she said. “They are thankful. I never discussed putting them in an assisted living facility.”
Stan and Evelyn both agreed Alyssa has made a difference in their lives.
“I’m very pleased about it,” Stan said. “She does a very good job. I would say that it’s been easier. She helps us a lot. I’m happy that we are able to stay at home.”
Jason Cohen is a staff reporter for the Jewish Exponent.