Eric Kaye was no stranger to the healthcare field when Jewish Family & Children’s Service asked him to start Jewish Family Home Care of Arizona in 2010. “It started with my own grandmother, Emily Koen, who was a Holocaust survivor [living] in Scottsdale,” says Eric. “My grandfather was gone and she needed help.”
She trusted JFCS and inquired if there was a program to assist her. The care she needed wasn’t available at that time, so Eric became her caregiver. Being in the healthcare field, he had had a connection with JFCS for many years through hospice, hospitals or home care. Then JFCS recruited him to start its home care program. He ran Jewish Family Home Care of Arizona from its inception until he decided to branch out on his own and started Connections In Home Care in 2014.
At that point, the JFCS ended its home care program and started referring clients to Eric. Connections In Home Care was asked to continue the existing contract with The Blue Card program (bluecardfund.org), which provides financial assistance to needy Holocaust survivors. With Eric’s grandmother a survivor, The Blue Card and its beneficiaries hit close to home. Connections In Home Care currently has 15 clients who receive assistance from The Blue Card program.
The Blue Card used to provide recipients with up to 30 hours of care each week: 25 hours from the organization and five hours from private funding. Unfortunately, those five hours have been cut. The Blue Card also only covers care, so Eric and Denise donate all the miles they drive related to these clients’ care.
“It definitely breaks my heart,” says Denise Kaye, Eric’s wife and business partner. “We have 15 people on service and four people who were used to getting 30 hours, [which] are now reduced to 25.” Denise notes that if private donors want to give to The Blue Card, they can specify a region for their donation.
Be more proactive than reactive.
Eric says that the care offered to both The Blue Card and other clients can be broken down into two categories: companion care and personal care. Companion care includes light housekeeping, laundry, making beds or changing linens, doing dishes, vacuuming, transportation, medication reminders, meal planning and preparation, fall prevention, various projects (clearing clutter, getting organized) and basic companionship.
“Personal care is where we tailor the service to individuals based on their needs,” says Eric. Personal care includes everything on the companion side, as well as help in the shower, help with walking or with moving from sitting to standing with back, incontinent care, dressing, personal hygiene and more.
“We work a lot with clients afflicted with any type of dementia, Parkinson’s or other neurological challenges,” says Eric. “We train on working with that population … successfully, managing education and behaviors.” Respite care is also available if a client’s family members, spouse or primary caregiver need some time to themselves.
“Our services are anywhere from a [daily] four-hour shift … to 24 hours a day,” says Eric. “We are on call 24/7. You will speak to one of us [Eric or Denise] or Jennifer [Bohnsack], our administrator.”
Connections In Home Care currently has 50 employees servicing Maricopa County. Employees go through a rigorous process that includes phone screening, background and Motor Vehicle Department checks, drug testing, in-service training and orientation.
“Finding good, caring, reliable caregivers is the number-one obstacle that we face,” says Eric. But when they do find those special people, they accommodate and take care of them. “We respect and nurture our caregivers; and we have high expectations for them because it is our name and reputation – they are representing us,” says Denise. “We have had clients who have had the same caregiver for years and they really love each other. It’s this beautiful bond. That’s the joy of doing this [kind of work].”
Denise’s mission is to educate people (she was a former middle school teacher before earning her MBA and working with Eric) and get them to think about having a plan in place for the future. “I talk to estate planners, financial planners, elder attorneys – because 85% of our calls are emergencies,” says Denise. “People will call and say, ‘My mom is in the hospital. She is going to rehab. They are going to discharge her. I don’t know what to do.’ If you have something in place way before that happens, you can be more proactive than reactive.”
She recommends that people begin planning as early as in their 50s. “You have to talk about it – and it’s difficult – but people want to honor your wishes and make it so that they are doing what you want. Make these decisions while you can,” recommends Denise.
A “third baby”
Eric and Denise offer more than just care for their clients. They also have connections to many valuable resources – whether it’s a handyman to install grab bars for safety or an attorney for estate planning. If clients decide it’s time to move to an assisted living community, they know people who can help find the best one to fit their needs.
“This is our ‘third baby,’” says Denise. (The couple have two children: Asher, 13, and Lirit, 10.) “We nurture each case and client and take really good care of them,” adds Eric. “We want to be there for someone to be as independent as possible, for as long as possible, in their own home. That’s why they hire us.” Eric and Denise personally ensure that each client is getting the appropriate level of care.
“Our fundamental value is gemilut chasadim – acts of love and kindness – and that’s what we like to portray out there in the community,” says Eric. “That is what we tell our caregivers in the training. That’s our main, fundamental, shared value and that is what I think our clients in the community see…”
“I love our tagline ‘connecting hearts to homes,’” adds Denise. “I feel like it’s a certain kind of person who does this. They have such big hearts and they care so much for the clients, and we do it well. I love to visit the clients and just listen to them. They have insight and wisdom. They have such stories to tell.”
Article originally appeared in Arizona Jewish Life, May 2017″