[lg policy] Mt. Laurel, New Jersey: Senior home caters to Korean community

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 9 14:18:16 UTC 2010

Senior home caters to Korean community
By EILEEN SMITH • Courier-Post Staff • August 9, 2010

At Innova Health & Rehab's newly established Korean Community, Kim and
other elderly Koreans are cared for by bilingual nurses. A chef
recruited from a Korean restaurant serves marinated short ribs and
kimchi, a traditional dish of fermented cabbage. "Here, there is no
language barrier," Kim says through an interpreter. "Here I can eat
Korean food and read a Korean newspaper." The concept of aging in a
culturally comfortable setting is proving so successful that Innova is
exploring establishing Spanish-speaking communities at its facilities
in Deptford and Hammonton, says spokesman David Chando. While many
nursing homes have their roots in religious organizations, culturally
based facilities are still rare, says Lauren Shaham, spokeswoman for
the American Association of Homes for the Aging, a Washington,
D.C.-based group for nonprofit homes.
Still, the movement is beginning to gain traction. There is a nursing
home for elderly Chinese people in New York and a facility for
Japanese seniors in Washington state.
"As immigrant communities mature, they are looking for ways to care
for their elders," Shaham says.

The idea for the Korean community came from the Rev. John Sung, a
Korean-born pastor who regularly visits Koreans in nursing homes as
part of his ministry. "They told me they were suffering from the lack
of communication with their caregivers," he says. "They can't talk
about their pain and that makes them feel isolated and depressed."
His rounds frequently took him down Church Road, past Innova, a
privately owned nursing and long-term care facility. One day, Sung
stopped in with an idea. Would the nursing home be interested in
establishing a community for Koreans staffed by people who speak their
language? Innova carved out a 40-bed community within the facility,
hiring two bilingual registered nurses and an activities director. The
chef, Jong Soo Kim, has worked at area Asian restaurants for 25 years.
Sung serves as the community director and there is an interpreter
available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

"We are completely committed to this concept and wanted to make it as
warm and welcoming for our Korean patients as is humanly possible,"
Chando says. The walls are painted warm beige, a color the residents
say reminds them of the thatched roofs of their childhood homes in
Korea. Innova installed flat screen TVs in all the rooms, bringing in
10 Korean channels via satellite. On a recent afternoon, a group of
women played a modified version of Bingo in the activities room. A
banner with brightly colored flowers is printed in Korean. The
translation: Grandma, Grandpa, be happy all the time. The community
opened on May 15 and has 27 residents, ranging from a 97-year-old man
to a 69-year-old woman who was debilitated by a stroke. The average
age is 80. There are two married couples. "One of the couples put
their beds together so they can sleep, hugging," Sung says. Most
patients came from other nursing homes, from as far away as Virginia.
All speak little or no English and learned about the community through
relatives and Christian groups.

"Many came over when they were older to take care of their
grandchildren so their children could work and start small
businesses," Sung says. Kim transferred from a long-term care facility
in Cherry Hill. "They were very nice but I felt lonely," she said.
"The nurses couldn't understand me and I missed Korean food very
much." Attired in a fluttering white blouse and soft green slippers,
Kim watches religious programs on TV and attends daily prayer and
worship services. As a younger woman, she worked in a sewing machine
factory with her daughter. "I write in my devotional diary," she says.
"I have many people to talk with and I am content and happy." Nearly
half the residents come from Philadelphia, where there are nearly
70,000 Koreans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There are an
estimated 7,000 Koreans in South Jersey. In both locales, 10 percent
of that population is over 65.Currently, Golden Age Adult Medical Day
Care in Marlton offers a program for Korean seniors, as well as
elderly Hispanics and Russians. But there are no ethnically oriented
assisted living centers.

"The Korean community in South Jersey and Philadelphia is large, yet
there are precious few long-term care facilities that can accommodate
this population without integrating them with American patients," says
Drew Barile, Innova CEO. "This new unit was conceived to provide for
their emotional and cultural needs, as well as their physical needs."
Although the Korean community is housed in its own wing, residents are
free to mingle with patients from other cultures in the rest of the
facility. On occasion, U.S.-born veterans who served in the Korean War
take a stroll down the hall to the community at meal time. "They
learned to enjoy Korean food during the war," Sung says. "They like to
come and eat lunch with us."



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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