IN THE NEWS: Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service Holds Unique Graduation

Mort Mazor

Sun Sentinel

Feb 26, 2013

“Your choice is a noble one—helping people who are sometimes forgotten.”

Ruth Rales Jewish Family Services chaplain, Howard Horowitz spoke those words at the recent graduation ceremony held at the Shirley & Barton Weisman Delray Community Center. The thirty graduates were adults aged 55 and older who had been recruited for a special Senior Companion Training Program which included ten hours of classroom instruction and four to six months of on the job training under the supervision of a social worker. While on the program, Senior Companion Trainees were matched with sixty elderly clients who were identified by JFS as being in need of companionship.

The program was funded through a grant from the Palm Beach County Workforce Alliance. Ms. Michelle Janoff was the program coordinator for the program. Her background is in health care consulting and hospice care.

“I thank everyone of the people in this room for enriching my life. This program began in February 2012,” Janoff said. “The ten hour in-class training included a number of areas such as how to care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s; first aid, and CPR; and the do’s and don’ts of caregiving. Senior Companion Trainees were assigned two clients and works with each four hours per week for a small stipend. I am elated with the positive results.”

Each of the graduating Senior Companion Trainees received a diploma, letter of recommendation and a small gift presented to them by Janoff and Danielle Hartman, President & C.E.O of JFS.

Lee Calig, 71 of Boca Raton finished his training in July 2012. “I became a Senior Companion and an advocate for senior men,” said Calig. “We are the human link to the elderly who have no family in Florida. We take them out into the community. We learn from them and they learn from us. We share our experience, strength and hope.”

One of the clients, Larry Dicker, Boca Raton spoke of his relationship with his Senior Companion, Paul Turner: “You are more than my driver. You have become my confidant.”

Turner responded: “I thank JFS for the training to put patient’s first and for giving me ‘a work home.’ When we take our patients to doctors, they and their nurses are thrilled to know we are helping people. I am even considering going back to school to earn a health care degree.”

“The once a month workshops were informative,” said Companion Gloria Mitchell. I’m looking forward to working a few days each week.”

Her client, Sally Wolfe of Boynton Beach said, “We’ve become friends. She cares for me like a mother.”

Another Companion said, “You aren’t just a client. You’re part of my family.”

Attending the ceremony was Orit Nicole Pines, Managing Partner of Alzheimer’s-Dementia Care, L.L.C. “Michelle invited me to meet some of these Senior Companion Trainees with a view towards hiring them to work for my company. Their training has made them uniquely qualified to work in our field.”

In her remarks as the graduation ceremony wound down, Danielle Hartman, JFS President & C.E.O. explained “This was a new program for us, created from the ground up. We know there are many seniors who are lonely and need people to be companions. We do not have the assets to continue this successful program. Maybe in the near future we will find an angel who will sponsor the continuation of this gallant effort that can benefit many of the seniors who live alone in our area.”

The incoming Chairman of the Board of JFS, Jon Kimmel, Boca Raton said, “Our goal is to help as many people in the community as need our assistance and to grow the agency.”

With the completion of this program, there are now sixty Palm Beach County seniors who are not forgotten, who have a trained companion as a new member of their “family” touching their lives, helping them each week.

For additional information contact Danielle Hartman at danielleh@ruthralesjfs.org.

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