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I have a much better grip on the responses I have received to this blog and I think it is fair to say that criticism of the JCA is like touching that third rail.  I have addressed my distress regarding this in one of my comments, and it is very sad.  I had a lengthy discussion with Ken Berger from Charity Navigator and he had quite a few suggestions that we here at the blog will be putting into practice in the coming months in an effort to encourage greater transparency and openness on the part of the JCA.  What is sad is that the JFED/JCA is not alone, there are thousands of 501c3’s that end up squandering everything and one of the common features about all of them is that no one spoke up.  As the Once-ler remarked in The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  I would not dare to compare myself to the Once-ler, but you get the drift.

I had a fair amount of push-back after my last touch of the third rail regarding the role of Ms. Friebaum as the consultant to the JCA who has worked on the Senior project for the past twelve months, according to the Jewish News:

“The Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix is in the process of conducting a study to help identify the needs of the Valley’s Jewish senior citizens. The next step is a community survey, which launches June 1.

For the past year, Janice Friebaum, a senior services consultant hired by the Association, has gathered information about senior care, including demographics and existing services for seniors, to help determine what needs are not currently being met. About 80 percent of the research, including interviews with a large number of service providers, clergy, agency personnel and community members; focus groups; and the development of the community survey, has been completed, according to Friebaum.”

My point was that Ms. Friebaum, who I am certain is quite accomplished in the many diverse fields she has worked in, has no specific training in this field, and therefore, given the executive turnover at the JCA with the people that Stuart Wachs has hired in executive positions, it is reasonable to question this particular consultant’s qualifications, at least on paper.  As an aside, despite what was written in the Jewish News, I spoke with two very senior Rabbis of two large congregations and they have never spoken with Ms. Friebaum, never met with her, and had no idea who she is or that she was undertaking such a serious task.  To avoid that third rail, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the JCA and assume that these two Rabbis just missed their phone messages.

On Thursday I asked a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) to review the JCA’s survey as my gift to the JCA to make sure they are getting what they are paying for.  I asked the CSA for an analysis of the JCA’s survey, which is available in an hour on June 1st.  The analysis I received was the result of a relatively quick review of the survey, not a comprehensive assessment.  More suggestions would likely emerge if I asked for a deeper study of the survey.

According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors:

“Anyone working with older adults needs the CSA certification. Today’s aging population is growing exponentially – and the need for qualified professionals to meet the multi-faceted needs of older adults and their families is greater than ever. The Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® is the leading certification for professionals seeking to supplement their knowledge and adjust to the rapidly changing age demographic by understanding the multiple processes of aging.  Earning the CSA®certification requires individuals to pass a rigorous exam, uphold the highest ethical standards, and complete recertification continuing education requirements.”

“What makes a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® exceptional is their application of the knowledge gained through the CSA Working with Seniors course combined with their professional experience. CSAs are committed to ethical behavior to benefit senior clients and their families. The CSA who builds their health, social, legal and financial knowledge in aging through continuing education and forms a strong network of strategic partnerships will act in concert on the behalf of the seniors they serve using a unified approach demonstrating the difference of holding the CSA certification.”

Here is the link to the JCA’s Senior Survey   http://tinyurl.com/lwjtm7g  

Comments on the JCA’s Senior Survey from a Certified Senior Advisor

While making a survey excessively long and complex can negatively impact the response rate, the lack of adequate questions will result in too little useful information for the survey to provide meaningful results.  As a result consideration should be given to doing some of the surveying by interviewing seniors rather than asking more questions in an online survey.  The survey in its current form is sophomoric and too elementary to provide the needed information.  Suggested additional questions have been added to obtain more usable information in order to formulate a plan to provide needed services for seniors in the future and to evaluate services currently being provided to local seniors.

Question #1 Your Age?

This would be a place to add data about how people feel about their health at their current age, asking if the person considers themselves to be in good health for their age and if the answer is no, then drill down to what their medical condition is, permanent or temporary, is it progressive and will they see themselves as needing additional care as a result of this in the future. If they answer that they think they will need additional care they should also be asked about time frames for additional care and contingency plans and their financial ability to deal with the situation.  Question #3 Current Marital Status, could be combined here and then ask the age of their partner and health status of their partner to get a more clear picture of the needs of this person or persons or family unit.

Questions #3 Current Marital Status? and #4 Current Living Situations?

This needs a drill down to find out if this living situation is by choice or only due to necessity and whether the person is happy or unhappy with their current situation.  If they are unhappy, there could be a question about what kind of living situation would make that better and what is needed to make that situation feasible (financial resources, etc). One could also ask if better options were available in the Jewish community, i.e., availability of Jewish senior housing in the community would that make a difference?  Many other Jewish communities have Jewish senior housing on the campus of the JCC, one of the best being St. Louis.

Question #5 Do you live in Greater Phoenix for more than 4 months in a year?

There is quite a bit more to know about this question.  One needs to drill down to see what may or may not change with that living situation i.e. will they become year round residents.  That way one can get a better idea of why they do or do not live here year round and whether that is going to change in the future so as to anticipate further need for services.

Question #6 Zip Code of your residence in Greater Phoenix?

The drill down on this question should include inquiries about length of residence in this zip code and plans to move in the future?  Another drill down should question the safety of the neighborhood the person lives in, whether the person feels stuck there and possibly unsafe?  Some additional valuable information related to zip code would be whether they have access to the necessary Jewish resources, the availability of transportation and whether the person still drives.

Question #8 What is your employment status?

There is a lot more important information to be obtained in this question than just a simple yes or no answer.  If people are currently employed it would be helpful to ascertain whether they are happy with their situation?  Would they prefer more or less employment, are they employed at a level that uses their skills and education?  Are they commuting excessively?  If they answer that they have been laid off and/or have lost their job it would be good to find out how long this unemployment has been in place and ask if they need assistance (i.e JFCS Job Counseling Services).  This question would also be a great place to obtain information about people’s willingness to help other seniors with their needs for Aging in Place, to determine what extra volunteer capacity may be available in the community.

Question #9 Do you have adult children? and Question #10 If yes, does one or more live in Phoenix?

Question #9 is a simple yes or no question which tells absolutely nothing.  One needs to drill down from there to find out whether or not there is a good relationship with these children?  Often, today, seniors are helping their own adult children, so the question needs to be asked, do you provide assistance to your children?  The other question that needs to be asked is can you count on these children to assist you?  And then this needs to be defined further in terms of on a regular basis, only in an emergency situation, financially?  Questions #9 and #10 need to combined into a question that drills down and asks about who helps whom, who needs help more; parents or children?  In this day and age a lot of seniors help support children who have lost jobs and need help given today’s much less forgiving job market and the existence of so many lower paying and part time positions than in the past.

Question #11 and #12 This starts a section entitled Caregiver Questions and the first question is a simple yes or no to – Do you presently have caregiving responsibilities.

At this point if the answer is yes it should add a question about the effect that this caregiving has on the senior.  Is the senior able to handle the extra responsibility comfortably or is it overly stressful and are they in need of outside assistance?  There are also seniors raising grandchildren due to their own impaired adult children.  Are these caregiving duties local or long distance?  Is this situation temporary due to short term illness or do they think it will be more permanent?  Does the person need respite assistance that they are not getting?

Questions #13 and #14 are the same simplistic questions about anticipating becoming a caregiver in the future with no further information asked for.  They need the same kind of clarification as questions #11 and #12.

Question #15 Begins a section labeled Adult Needs and Outreach

This is again an anemic section that does not obtain nearly the information that is needed.  The question asks what is the best way to inform you of programs and services offered for people 55+?  Before they even begin this question which includes email as one of the ways of being reached, the whole question of computer literacy should be approached systematically.  There should be a question do you own a computer and use email on a regular basis?  Can you use a computer without the help of your children or grandchildren?  Then there should be a check list of some major computer applications and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Facetime to determine if they use these or not.  The question should be asked if they would like to learn basic computer literacy.  Also whether the senior is able to  use a smartphone?

Question #16 Which older adult services do you currently utilize most or may use in the future?

The question needs to be two distinct sets of questions.  One needs to know what services the senior is using now and what services they anticipate needing in the future.  Also the question should determine from which providers they are currently obtaining services, how are needs being met, is it from within or outside the Jewish community?  Transportation is a huge issue for seniors and should be probed more in depth.

Question #17 What do you believe are the older adult service needs that are the most important for our community to address now?

Asks for the person to simply check off up to five items for what services are needed, without asking for commentary about the need behind the request and how prevalent a need this is in the community at large.

Question #18 Ask for thoughts or comments?

It is good to have a commentary section, however what could be more valuable would be a question about what programs, activities, organizations or institutions have you experienced in other Jewish communities that could be replicated here.  What were those model programs you would like to see in the Phoenix area and what communities did they exist in?

There is quite a bit more that could be said about the survey and what kind of methodology will be used to evaluate it, but this has been a brief critique of the JCA’s Senior Survey.

Well, I think that is all that we have for the moment.  Please feel free to comment, send in material for us to post (as long as it does not involve commentary regarding my mother’s virtue) and know that we are busying ourselves here with an action plan for the future.