From Boston to Dnepropetrovsk
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JF&CS Blog

From Boston to Dnepropetrovsk
June 2, 2011
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JF&CS News Spring 2011

Picture this: a group of seniors, some standing with walkers or sitting in wheelchairs, in a spotless, airy, and sunny room. As classical music flows from a CD, they raise their chopstick batons and begin to conduct.

This happy scene is a “conductorcise” class at the Beit Baruch elderly housing site in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. A blend of “conducting” and “exercising,” the class offers a fun workout, time together, and the chance to hear beautiful music.

It’s one of many new initiatives that are a result of training by Marsha Frankel, Clinical Director of JF&CS Senior Services, and Francine Godfrey, Director of Wellness and Fitness at Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE).

Beit Baruch, a JCHE project, is home to 60 residents in a version of an assisted living facility and a nursing home. These residents are at the end of their lives and are increasingly frail, having lived through incredible trauma suffered by Jews in the former Soviet Union, and lost extensive family to the Holocaust or the Communists.

They live in an area with extremely poor medical care that is not well regulated. Many arrive malnourished from unheated apartments where they lived alone and dependent on neighbors for food. One of the residents has been living with a broken hip for a year. More than half have some level of dementia or mental illness.

All require increasingly sophisticated care that has challenged the skills and training of the generous and warm-hearted Beit Baruch nursing staff.

Enter Marsha Frankel. Marsha was invited to go to Dnepropetrovsk to provide training and support to the staff to help them improve the quality of life for the residents they care so much for.

“We’re introducing an American holistic model of care that integrates the physical, mental, and social aspects so that everything they’re doing has an impact across these dimensions,” said Marsha.

She has just returned from her second week-long visit. The focus of this trip was to provide materials for training nurses aides, known as “junior nurses,” who care directly for the elders but have limited resources. “There are no formal training programs for nurses aides in Ukraine. Facilities hire people who have the right personality and are interested in the elderly,” said Marsha.

The training covered a variety of ways that these devoted caregivers can increase activity and socialization opportunities for residents. It also includes specific techniques for issues that impact residents such as challenging behaviors in dementia, grieving for residents who have died, wound care, and depression.

Marsha described the staff as “warm and caring souls” and found them eager to learn and adapt whatever they can to improve life for the resident. She was impressed by how quickly they were able to implement suggestions.

“The staff, from the physicians to the administrator to the aides, immediately embraced me, both literally and figuratively, and engaged in learning and problem solving together to make a great home for the elderly even better,” said Marsha.

Through email and Skype conference calls, Marsha will continue to be a resource for the staff of Beit Baruch, inspired by their “can do” attitude and the genuine warmth and hospitality of the people of Dnepropetrovsk.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.

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