Jill Rosenzweig, a local Jewish philanthropist and former board chair at Jewish Family & Children’s Services, enrolled in Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging’s post-hospital treatment program for physical therapy following back surgery last August. She recently returned to the care facility for further treatment.
Rosenzweig initially chose Handmaker’s program because it’s a partner in the Jewish community. “I really wanted to see what Handmaker was like,” she says, “and I found the physical therapy to be outstanding.”
“The therapists are engaging and very respectful,” says Rosenzweig. “They give you ownership of the whole thing, but they push you. And for me it was just the right combination.”
Handmaker was recently named the best assisted living facility in the Arizona Daily Star Reader’s Choice awards, and for the first time, its assisted living program has a three to six month waiting list.
The local recognition certainly helped the organization, says Art Martin, Handmaker CEO, but its success came at the end of a three-year process, he says.
Handmaker hired a firm that helped identify ways to modernize the facility and create a more welcoming atmosphere, he says.
The organization will continue to make its post-hospital services a priority. “There is a big community need for it,” says Martin, and Handmaker “gives top-flight post-hospital care.”
Located at 2221 N. Rosemont Blvd., Handmaker houses almost 200 seniors who need varying levels of care and offers multiple programs including 12 independent living apartments, assisted living quarters and skilled nursing care, which includes post-hospital treatment covering physical and occupational therapy. The facility also provides dementia services and general 24-hour residential nursing care.
About two years ago, Handmaker expanded its campus and opened SandRuby Community Programs, a non-residential social program for the memory impaired, frail and elderly seniors as well as adults living with developmental disabilities. SandRuby has about 60 members attending its daily program, which ranges from life skill classes to arts and crafts. And SandRuby is hoping to increase membership to 90 participants by the end of next year, says Martin.
Handmaker’s continuum of care means it can adapt to changing needs, says Martin, who explains that, for example, some seniors who get injured unfortunately may not be able to return home. Patients who are treated at Handmaker’s temporary programs can easily transition into residential services.
Even though Handmaker is one of the many nursing homes that provide excellent service for seniors in Tucson, Martin says its spiritual foundation for programing is invaluable.
“One the things that sets us apart is the fact that this is based upon the teachings of Judaism, which is very important in the daily life here at Handmaker,” he says. All meals served at Handmaker meet the kosher standard.
Although grounded in Judaism, Handmaker provides services for all faiths and denominations, he says. “The spiritual nature in general sets us apart, and we to try to keep that front and center.”
The organization seems to attract staff members who not only stay at Handmaker long-term, but enjoy going above and beyond normal expectations, he says. Martin recalls seeing employees keep vigils with ailing residents and build close relationships with the residents’ families. Some family members seek employment at the organization, he adds.
“It’s really all about our staff, and I’m very blessed to have an exceedingly long-term staff,” he says. “When a family member wants to come and work for the organization caring for their loved one — we’re doing something right.”
The senior facility works closely with the Arizona Long Term Care System, a statewide program that works in conjunction with Medicaid and provides financial assistance for seniors, so Handmaker residents are never asked to leave for financial reasons, Martin says.
Rosenzweig, who has had a long career in early childhood education, points out that a positive and welcoming environment is always created from the top down. And from her two temporary stays at Handmaker, she can tell the local senior facility has a dedicated and happy staff.
“It’s a caring place,” she says.