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Training for caregivers helps local clients keep kosher

Mark Schmidt and his sister Patricia Payne are co-owners of Home Care Assistance in Tucson, along with Payne’s husband, Bradley Payne. (Photo courtesy Mark Schmidt)

As part of its balanced care method, Tucson’s Home Care Assistance caregivers offer adult clients care to help them live longer, happier, more balanced lives. That’s why the caregivers are trained in kosher care, to deliver a Jewish perspective to services and conform with Jewish laws and customs, according to the preferences of their clients, says company owner and general manager Mark D. Schmidt. “Our caregivers are specially trained in Jewish traditions, holidays, and in keeping a kosher kitchen,” he says.

The classroom and online certification addresses housekeeping; utensils and dishes; storage; shopping; kosher food symbols; meat, dairy, and pareve (neutral food) issues; and food service. “If we can better prepare our caregivers to interact with the client, it makes their relationship much better,” says Schmidt. He adds that clients’ family members sometimes come to the quarterly training, which also covers the history of Jewish foods and such details as how to use a dishwasher in a kosher home. A kosher cookbook with recipes for Jewish holidays enables caregivers to meet cultural expectations.

Based on the success of the kosher training, Schmidt says the company looks to expand to include halal and Latter-Day Saints specialty programs.

The San Francisco-based group provides non-medical care in the home or in communities such as Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging, or skilled nursing facilities. “Wherever a client needs care,” Schmidt says. Care levels vary from hourly, to around the clock, or “live in” care. “Since we don’t have contracts, we are flexible with patients as things change.”

Upon intake, a holistic care plan is created to measure social interaction, physical condition, nutrition, emotion levels, cognitive ability, sense of purpose, and drive. “We assess and monitor every element on every visit,” says Schmidt, noting that ways to address issues are unlimited.

HCA utilizes proprietary Cognitive Stimulation Programs developed from scientific research. “It is a non-pharmacological way to increase the brain’s cognitive store and neuroplasticity to help impede cognitive decline,” says Schmidt. The company’s cognitive interventionists identify deficient brain activity areas through specific exercises. By focusing activity and care to stimulate those brain areas, “we see a dramatic reaction and response time, not in curing but in improving cognitive levels. Clients don’t have to get the answers right. Just by activating the mind it increases neuroplasticity and cognitive storage, so it takes dementia longer to attack or slows it down. The measurable progress is documented and the client can take the report to their neurologist.”

Caregivers accompany clients for appointments, shopping, excursions, and other activities. If clients travel interstate, network caregivers can meet them at the other end. HCA has a network of 500 care providers across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia. The Tucson office opened four years ago and achieved three coveted awards from Home Care Pulse in 2019 as home care Leader in Excellence, Provider of Choice, and Employer of Choice.

Schmidt is retired from a 30-year career in the hospitality industry. His co-owners include his sister Patricia Payne, president, and her husband, Bradley Payne.

For more information, contact Schmidt at mschmidt@homecareassistance.com, or visit www.homecareassistanceTucson.com.