Early in April I attended the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS) Annual Conference along with other Heritage Pointe staff and lay leadership. There are just over 100 Jewish homes across North America. Each one serves a Jewish community that is rich with tradition, proud of their location and history, and faces regional and global challenges. 5 key takeaways from the conference:
- Each one is struggling with staffing (the issues affecting the workforce in California are not unique)
- The pandemic caused thousands of deaths in AJAS facilities (Heritage Pointe had no deaths related to COVID)
- Expectations of services and programs have changed dramatically and Residents and their families are more demanding
- The overwhelming majority of Jewish homes have altered their food service program to offer non-kosher options as the feedback from current and projected seniors is that kosher is not as important as it once was
- Quality care and well maintained (and updated) facilities are driving decisions
Heritage Pointe has a proud history of over 30 years serving the Orange County Jewish community. We, too, have struggled with staffing and have adjusted our starting wages, as well as implemented referral bonuses and sign-on bonuses. It seems we are in a constant battle with private agencies to secure staff. We do know that it is imperative that we have a stable staff that are familiar with all our Residents care needs so we can maintain a consistent level of quality. We are committed to this.
With increasing expectations, our Directors and staff do all we can to make sure everyone feels we are meeting their needs – programmatically, socially, nutritionally, care-related, etc. This is not an easy task but why we are here and we embrace the challenge and work tirelessly each day to do the very best we can. But, as mentioned above, there are so many obstacles at the current time that we may veer off track for a bit and then get back in line.
As the only Jewish facility in Orange County serving the needs of our seniors, we have historically committed to maintain a standard of kosher so that EVERY Jew can feel comfortable coming to Heritage Pointe and no one will be excluded due to their dietary needs. We continue discussions of how we can do both in a meaningful and appropriate way – where we do not compromise the integrity of our Kashrut standards but also create ways that those who are not observant can enjoy foods that they desire – foods that they have enjoyed for decades.
Lastly, we have been addressing our physical plant and have been updating individual apartments and common areas with the latest technology and finishes so that we can compete with the new facilities that have opened in just the last 5+ years (and there are many).
We are not done. Each item requires continuous attention. We need to visit and revisit each one periodically to ensure that we are adjusting to the current demands and expectations. Rest assured that we are focused on this. Our extremely committed Board of Directors and Management staff discuss and debate regularly with one single focus in mind – provide the very best care, programs, services, amenities, and physical plant for those we serve. This is our number one priority because Our Community Seniors Deserve It!
I thank you, in advance, for your support and for your patience as we tackle these challenges.
Mike Silverman, CEO