Sunday, June 16, 2013

Three Minute Primer on Jewish Elderly in the former Soviet Union

A colleague from a Jewish federation asked me the other day about the elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union, how we got to where we are, and what the needs are going to look like in the coming years. All in three minutes ...

So here's the basic idea (and I'll try to do some more down the line):

As the caseload has aged (thanks to the help the elderly get from Hesed), their needs have changed ... they are less mobile, more sickly, and more isolated.  

Given the fact that there is virtually no institutional care, these clients become home-bound, without the resources needed to care for them
-no one to cook
-no one to clean
-no one to shop
-no one to pick up their medicines, etc.

On the scale of need - these people really are at the top.  So, as we have done from the onset of our re-entry in to the FSU, we have made the program sensitive to the greatest needs of those who depend on us. 

To give it broader context, we started out in the early 90's with food distribution as the primary function of Hesed.

As medicines became harder to secure, we added them to the mix, recognizing that from a limited pension, food and medicine were the two most expensive and critical items. 

About six years ago we graduated into food cards, which allowed the elderly to choose their individual mix of food and medicine by using the equivalent of a debit card, based on arrangements with supermarket and pharmacy chains, where possible.  

And about three years ago we started putting more of an emphasis on homecare, because this was emerging as the primary need.  

There is still, of course, a food/medicine distribution program, and food cards where these are available.  But the growth area is in homecare so that we can respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, especially in the former Soviet Union. And it's the support of our Jewish federations and donors that allow us to reach out to these most vulnerable, in several thousand locations, on a daily basis, to bring them food, medicine and homecare.

We try to find as many opportunities as possible to say thank you. But if you're reading this, and you're one of those generous donors, or federation donors, then you should know how grateful we, and the clients whose lives you're saving, really are.

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