LeadingAge Magazine · July/August 2016 • Volume 06 • Number 04

Partnerships Reach Out to Potential Workers, Boost Wellness and Teach English

July 13, 2016 | by Gene Mitchell

Partnerships Reach Out to Potential Workers, Boost Wellness and Teach English

Hebrew HealthCare, West Hartford, CT, has partnered with American Institute, a career training provider, to offer students, graduates and the public valuable education in caregiving and issues affecting elders.

This spring, instructors from Hebrew HealthCare’s Aging Care AcademySM held classes at the American Institute, open not only to its students but also to the general public.

The Aging Care Academy is a program that assists individuals in caring for older adults with memory impairments. It offers classes led by experts in geriatric health, elder law, finance and related fields. Classes are offered in a college seminar style, and are informal; flexible class times encourage a comfortable, convenient and stress-free environment.

“We also have 28 YouTube videos with free information,” says Pamela Atwood, director, dementia services for Hebrew HealthCare. “We have a dementia component, [information about] age-related changes, depression, family dynamics, legal issues, advance directives and more.”

American Institute trains students for entry-level jobs in a variety of health-related areas (including CNA training, dental assistant and ultrasound technologist training, and medical coding/billing).

“American Institute … was open and creative about what was possible,” says Atwood. “They really could see the value of the content for [their students] to have a breadth of knowledge. Though it’s a trade school, it has kind of the feel of a liberal arts school.”

About 75 individuals participated in the classes. Atwood notes that about 25 American Institute students attended each class, many more than expected, and she was impressed by the students’ interest in learning more about older adults. The Academy typically asks for $20 donations from participants to cover costs. “We don’t expect the students to donate, but I was shocked by how much they put in the donation jar,” she says.

Hebrew HealthCare hopes to repeat the curriculum in the fall.

Residents at Salemtowne Retirement Community, Winston-Salem, NC, will benefit from comprehensive wellness programming and more as a result of a partnership between Salemtowne and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Wake Forest’s J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation already offers primary care for some Salemtowne residents. Wake Forest’s Sarah Redding, M.D., holds clinic hours 2 to 3 times a week at the retirement community and also oversees the care coordination of Navigation by Salemtowne, an at-home continuing care program for seniors in the wider community.
Building on their existing relationship, the two organizations recently signed a letter of intent to investigate further partnership opportunities. Salemtowne is less than 3 miles from the Wake Forest campus, and according to President and CEO Mark Steele, at least 80 of Salemtowne’s 350 residents are Wake Forest University alumni, retired professors or retired medical professionals with Wake Forest ties.

The partnership may include an evidence-based successful aging program for residents that offers, for instance, assessments of gait, balance and physical performance, and a role for the medical center’s brain health experts in the memory support program at Salemtowne’s new health care and rehabilitation center, scheduled to open in 2017. The new center will include 6 neighborhoods of 20 beds each—2 neighborhoods for short-term rehab services, 3 for long-term care and another for memory support and Alzheimer’s care.
The partnership also allows Wake Forest students to do internships at Salemtowne, and offers the prospect of additional research possibilities for the Sticht Center in years to come.

“The Sticht Center is doing research on successful aging but doesn’t have a platform for implementing programs and ideas,” says Steele. “We see ourselves as a conduit to do research here and to leverage our partnership with Masterpiece Living. They also have an Alzheimer’s research component and I’ve partnered with them using David Troxel’s Best Friends™ approach.”

Residents at Tower Grove Manor and The Willows, 2 communities that are part of the St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System in St. Louis, MO, are helping recent immigrants improve their conversational English and adapt to cultural norms in their new country. St. Andrew’s is working with Table Wisdom, a local not-for-profit that pairs immigrants with American seniors, who act as mentors and language teachers.

Table Wisdom was founded by Rey Castuciano, who in 1989 came to the U.S. as a teenager from the Philippines with his parents and sister. When his father suffered a stroke a few years ago—necessitating a long nursing-home stay—Castuciano spent a lot of time at the home and saw a population of seniors that had a lot to offer, but also suffered from loneliness and social isolation. He later learned about another program that paired American seniors, via Skype, to students in Brazil. The idea for Table Wisdom was born out of a desire to help immigrants with their English and acculturation, while giving seniors an opportunity to overcome isolation and make a difference.

Castuciano says 15 student/mentor pairs have participated in the program during its first year of existence. Students are recruited from local ESL programs and universities, and pay a fee of $30 to meet 4 times monthly with their mentors. Pairs can meet in person or via video chats.

A 2015 study by a group of Saint Louis University doctoral students (using a very small sample size—5 seniors and 4 immigrants) found that the seniors had overwhelmingly positive opinions about the program and that their social interactions had increased, along with their self-satisfaction. The mentees say the program has helped them learn social norms and gain local knowledge.

Castuciano says more organizations are coming on board, including Lutheran Senior Services, AARP and St. Louis NORC (managed by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis).

Castuciano interviewed a few of the mentors on video (links go to brief YouTube videos):

  • "I can't tell you what this has done for me. This old lady was able to help somebody … and I consider (my student) a very dear friend now that I care about and want her to succeed." (Marilyn Donovan, The Willows)
  • "To work with younger people is a very nice thing for me these days." (Fred Ashner, The Willows)
  • "I got a lot out of it … To learn more about one another's culture … so it’s been a rewarding experience for me and I appreciate it very much." (Pat Freter, Tower Grove Manor)

Articles in the St. Louis Business Journal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offer more detail on Table Wisdom’s work.

Two long-established Illinois providers have affiliated to help expand their missions: King-Bruwaert House [pronounced king brew-vart], Burr Ridge, has entered into an affiliation agreement with Mather LifeWays, based in Evanston.

King-Bruwaert House (K-B) owns a life plan community in Burr Ridge, and a rental senior living community (Godair Park) in Hinsdale. K-B and its communities will each refer to themselves as “A Mather LifeWays affiliate.”

The affiliation “has a lot to do with our history and similarity,” says Terri Bowen, CEO of K-B. “Both have a rich history [starting with] helping women without means—similar missions and values. We are similar in terms of expectations and how we think about providing care and services. Both have a history of providing innovative services and technology. We can expand our footprint in terms of those we serve and use each other as resources.”

"We are delighted to be affiliated with K-B,” says Mary Leary, president and CEO of Mather LifeWays. “They are an exceptional organization, and our affiliation gives Mather LifeWays a unique opportunity to collaborate with K-B to expand our mission of enhancing the lives of older adults by creating Ways to Age Well—especially as we celebrate our 75th anniversary this year. Together, our organizations can offer numerous benefits to K-B residents and the community at large, and we're very pleased with the potential to do even greater things in the years ahead.”

The two organizations retain separate boards and management teams. K-B, which boasts a strong endowment with no debt, will continue to own and operate its communities. One Mather LifeWays board member sits on the K-B board, and there is a joint steering committee to meet and oversee the affiliation.

“We have shared projects we’re working on, ideas for the future we’re contemplating, and [we are] looking at ways we can do IT together,” says Bowen. “I see us doing more and more and getting closer in the future, continuing to build that bond and relationship. Affiliating is the smart thing to do in this day and age.”