Helping Families Help their Elders

At a time when 28 million Americans serve as informal caregivers to elderly family members and friends, the complicated issues around caregiving are just beginning to emerge. “Baby-boomers plan for everything except eldercare,” says Susan Friedman, the executive director of the Grotta Foundation for Senior Care. The Foundation believes its mission is to change that.

The Grotta Foundation, which has helped to make possible LlLITH’s year-long look at women as the caregivers and the cared-for, has an interesting history. It is one of the emerging “conversion foundations”—an independent, permanently endowed grant making organization that gives away money acquired when a not-for-profit institution (in this case The Grotta Center, a nursing home and rehabilitation center that operated in New Jersey for 75 years) is bought by a for-profit enterprise. Members of the Grotta Foundation’s board include grandchildren of former volunteers at the Grotta Center. The foundation was created in 1993, and subsequently the board decided that the money from the sale should help support projects in two areas: family elder caregiving and synagogue-based programs, both relatively uncharted areas. Although the Foundation is non-sectarian in its funding, it has a particular interest in the welfare of the Jewish elderly.

To date, the Foundation has funded more than 90 New Jersey-based and national organizations involved with eldercare, totaling more than a million dollars. In an effort to further raise public and philanthropic awareness of the importance of caregiver issues, in October the Grotta Foundation, in conjunction with Fordham University in New York and Grantmakers in Aging completed “Family Elder Caregiving: The Grotta Report on Philanthropic Trends and Best Practice Models.” Friedman hopes that the report, which identified 45 foundations and 54 programs nationwide, will not only stimulate interest among funders but also will spur agencies, synagogues and other organizations to consider potential services for this growing population.