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Help to The Aged and their Adult Children

The Spring Valley, NY granddaughter of a 103-year-old Brooklyn man, who speaks only Yiddish and still wants to live on his own, tries to find a companion to live with him.

A New York friend is concerned about an elderly Cambridge couple married for 70 years. The wife, who is too proud to ask for help, cannot afford the cab fare to visit her husband in the convalescent home where he resides. She also isn’t eating properly.

“I can’t keep hopping on a plane whenever I am concerned about my mother…. My job and my family can’t take it,” the woman in her forties laments. Jewish adults throughout North America now have a means of helping their elderly relatives in distant cities. Elder Support Network (ESN), a service of the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, is a partnership of 72 local agencies.

Meeting a need that will only increase as more people are living longer and residing far from their mobile adult children, ESN typically receives over twenty calls a week. Via the telephone, receptionists make note of basic information and within two days the caller is contacted by a professional from the local Jewish agency where the elderly person lives. The family member and the agency professional work out a care plan.

Depending on the type of programs offered by the local agencies, help may come in the form of home delivered meals, home aides, electronic emergency monitoring systems, transportation, social programs, counseling for relatives of Alzheimer’s patients, bereavement groups, placement in a convalescent home, or financial and legal help.

The Miami Beach Jewish Family Service, for example, has a program where some homebound frail elderly are called and checked on a few times a month.

There is a cost for some of the services, but a sliding fee scale is a basic part of every Jewish Family Service’s philosophy of making services accessible to anyone who needs them. “Sometimes we receive calls for information from people who just want to know what will be available to their parents in the future. We’ve also had calls from people about elderly relatives who are depressed or suicidal, or who suspect that their elderly parent is being abused by a relative or care giver,” says Ann Mechlowitz, ESN project manager. “We are someplace to call when you don’t know who to turn to.” Elder Support Network can be reached toll free: 1-800-634-7654; from Canada or New Jersey, call collect: 201-821-0397.