JAA to begin master plan study; celebrates goals at annual meeting
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JAA to begin master plan study; celebrates goals at annual meeting

The Jewish Association on Aging used its first annual meeting in more than a decade to unveil a new master planning process to evaluate its needs and how to meet them.

“We’re in the very early stages of evaluating our needs, how we meet our needs and how we raise money,” JAA board chair Stephen Halpern said. “All these things come into play.”

Some of the issues the master plan study will address are the needs for independent living space, more units for dementia cases and more accommodations for short-term inpatient rehabilitation — a service for which JAA is developing a strong reputation among area hospitals, Halpern said.

Quoting Census Bureau data and Alzheimer’s Disease research reports, Halpern said the number of people over age 65 will outnumber children 5 years of age and under in 10 years, while the number of known dementia cases will triple over the next 25 years.

“We’re in a growth industry,” he said. “That part is good, but it’s also challenging.”

Halpern’s announcement was a piece of serious business in what was otherwise a celebration of JAA’s work and accomplishments in recent years.

Set to a theme of “homecoming,” JAA displayed photos of residents decked out like high school teens, distributed an annual report designed like a yearbook, and presented members of the Pittsburgh Allderdice High School marching band who musically welcomed guests at the entrance to Charles Morris.    

JAA President and CEO Deborah Winn-Horvitz said she didn’t know precisely when the agency last held an annual meeting — at least 10 years — but given all the changes there, she decided the time was ripe to have another.

“We’re really trying to change the way people think about what we do here,” she said. “This is not a place where people go to die; this is where they go to live.”

And where they live — an ultra-modern facility with a mini-aviary in its lobby — is a source of pride for JAA.

“Look at our state-of-the-art facilities we have here,” board member Mitch Pakler said in opening the meeting, “and know we are not the old Jewish Home and Hospital anymore.”

Winn-Horvitz, who was hired 10-months ago, told the Chronicle that hires like her represent “a paradigm shift” in the long-term care industry. The field is gravitating closer to acute care medicine, making its facilities training grounds for doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, and places of research for universities.   

Halpern also acknowledged this shift in his report, which is why Winn-Horvitz is now at the JAA.

“The most important decision our board made in the past 10 months is bring [her] in,” he said.

Winn-Horvitz, who spent nine years working at UPMC, most recently as executive administrator for the department of medicine, said JAA has negotiated several arrangements with area universities and colleges to host research and training programs at its facilities.

It is now a teaching site for CCAC nursing students, and it just signed a contract with Duquesne University to become a training site for its nurse practitioner candidates.

JAA is also one of many agencies that will benefit from a three-year, $19 million grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which will enable it to hire nurse practitioners and a pharmacist at the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The Jewish Healthcare Foundation and UPMC applied for the grant.  

“This is a high-level staff that long-term care facilities don’t usually have on their payrolls,” Winn-Horvitz said.

On the research front, she said the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute on Aging is doing research with JAA designed to reduce falls in the home.  

Carnegie Mellon University will be working with dementia cases at JAA, using robotic devices designed like “furry little creatures” to draw out the clients. The devices have been successfully employed with autistic children.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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