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This story first appeared on MassLive in November 2020.

In operation for over 108 years, JGS Lifecare is a nonprofit senior healthcare organization that offers a full continuum of care on its Longmeadow, Massachusetts campus. Residents of its assisted living facility, Ruth’s House, enjoy a variety of services and support systems they can’t get at home – all while living and making friends in a comfortable, home-like atmosphere.

“We serve all faiths, but we talk about our environment as being Hamish – that’s a Yiddish word for a cozy place that exudes warmth,” says Susan Halpern, Vice President of Development and Communications at JGS Lifecare. “We’ve found that people do well in an environment that feels like home.”

A Continuum of Care

JGS Lifecare runs on a continuum of care model. Its services include Genesis House, an independent living residential community for low-income adults. Wernick offers an adult day healthcare program, and Spectrum offers personalized home healthcare and hospice/palliative care. When more care is needed, seniors can move into assisted living at Ruth’s House or receive 24-hour nursing care at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home. Sosin Center for Rehabilitation is the first short-term rehab program in Western MA that is designed in the Green House® model of care, offering all private rooms and located in two small houses.

“Having a continuum of care allows us to provide the best possible care for each individual,” says Halpern. “If medical needs change, they can easily transition to a different level of care and know there will be continuity of care between our programs.”

The continuity of care extends to JGS Lifecare’s staff. Many of its employees have been with the organization for over 20 years. They are caring, compassionate, and dedicated to supporting the seniors within the community, and residents get to form long-term relationships with the people who assist them.

Home-Like Communities

While moving into assisted living can be a difficult decision, it’s often the best choice for a senior. “When loved ones are home alone, things can fall through the cracks,” Halpern explains. If a medication is missed or the senior falls, for example, it might be some time before a family caregiver or home care aide can help. Instead, assisted living offers constant support, supervision, and the attention of an onsite physician, giving families the peace of mind that their loved ones are safe and cared for. Each resident is offered an individualized care plan and has access to various levels of care that may include help with bathing, dressing, and medication. A licensed nutritionist is available to discuss dietary needs, and the life enrichment staff promotes physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being. Respite stays are also offered, providing accommodations when family or caregivers travel, a comfortable environment for recuperation from an illness, or just a chance to discover the benefits of assisted living.

“We find that many couples enjoy living at Ruth’s House,” says Halpern. “And if one of them need to go to Sosin for rehab or the Leavitt Family nursing home, it’s easy for the other one to visit them. And we don’t have a buy-in fee,” Halpern adds. “Our fee is month to month, so there’s less of a financial barrier to families who struggle to afford proper support.”

When many people think of assisted living, they imagine an institutional setting with long hallways and an atmosphere that’s cold and regimented. This description couldn’t be less true when it comes to Ruth’s House. It’s designed on an intimate scale, with a sense of warmth and coziness that residents find comforting. Interior finishings are warm and residential, and each neighborhood has a living room with a fireplace. Amenities include a hair salon, exercise room, activities area, warm country kitchen and den, a library, and great access to the outdoors in the beautiful, circular pathways of the therapeutic garden and porches throughout the building.

For residents living with early-to-mid-stage memory impairment and other dementia-related diseases, Ruth’s House’s Garden neighborhood offers a special sensory room for resident enjoyment and to help reduce agitation or anxiety. (Support for the sensory room was provided by the Fund for the Elderly, Joseph Izenstein Memorial Fund, Ida J. Salit Fund for Senior Life and the JEF Discretionary Fund of the Jewish Endowment Foundation, a division of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts). In addition, an all-season sun room serves as a multi-purpose area for activities and entertainment.

“There are warm and inviting spaces to socialize with other residents or visit with family, as well as more private areas for reading or reflection,” says Halpern. “The beauty of Ruth’s House is it feels like home – it is home.”

Prioritizing Residents’ Safety and Well-Being

As winter approaches, the assisted living decision becomes more important than ever. The shifting seasons can bring isolation for anyone, especially the elderly. Often, this isolation exacerbates memory issues and dementia, and increases the risk that elderly loved ones get hurt or sick while alone.

However, assisted living can end this isolation and provide the support that is needed. Residents can connect with a rich community and enjoy ongoing activities like musical entertainment, poetry readings, games, puzzles, gardening, special events, and more. “They can stay engaged and active, while receiving assistance with activities of daily living, like bathing, getting dressed, or taking medications,” says Halpern. “This often results in improved health outcomes and a higher quality of life than if they were to stay at home.”

“We’re also following all of the safety protocols for COVID-19,” adds Halpern. JGS Lifecare has invested in advanced electrostatic spraying machines to keep the environment clean and sanitized. Regular health screenings are in place for all residents and staff, as well as COVID-19 tests, to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy. “While we observe social distancing,” she continues, “we are also providing fun and engaging programming.”

To learn more about JGS Lifecare, Ruth House, and the benefits of assisted living or for answers to COVID-19 FAQs, visit its Facebook page or contact Mary-Anne Schelb at mschelb@jgslifecare.org or 413-567-6211, x 2488. Virtual tours are available for those interested in making the move.