Marty Stempniak, Staff Writer

One New York nursing home is taking resident-centered care to a whole new level, announcing an expansion of its unit geared toward a specific segment of its community.

Last fall, Parker Jewish Institute first established its Indian Cultural Unit, aimed at providing care tailored to the burgeoning population around its service area in New Hyde Park, NY.  Now, they’re further ramping up those efforts, hiring a staff member who is fluent in Hindi and Punjabi, and will reach out to members of the community.

In a recent conversation with McKnight’s, Parker Jewish President and CEO Michael Rosenblut said the spark for the new center came after members of the local Indian community reached out to the institution. They voiced a desperate need for post-acute care tailored specifically to their loved ones.

Parker Jewish has worked overtime to get each meticulous detail about the unit right, ranging from decorations to a temple for prayer, staffers who speak the right language, TV programming and, of course, the food offerings, Rosenblut told me.

“We don’t serve TV dinners here. All of the food is cooked fresh,” he said. “So, we went to the Indian super market and distributors that carry the particular food — whether it be rice, certain types of chicken, fresh vegetables — and we learned how they’re prepared and cooked. We had to do some learning on our own.”

“Spices are very important, and they’re absolutely delicious,” he added.

The unit is staffed by Indian physicians and nurses who are fluent in languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi and Punjabi, among others. Activities are tied to the culture, too, as are the newspapers, music and movies offered in the unit.  

In a March announcement, Parker Jewish detailed further expansion plans with the hiring of Sujata Seth as marketing associate for the unit. She is tasked with making presentations at local businesses, senior centers and Hindu temples to spread the word about the business line. Seth is from the nearby community of Forest Hills, NY, and is actively involved with the India Association of Long Island, in Hicksville, according to the announcement.

Thus far, the unit has a population of about 25 out of 42 beds and has been well-received by locals. Rosenblut noted that the Queens community surrounding Parker Jewish is a melting pot, and the provider may look to further target other populations that require care tailored to their unique needs.

Retired OBGYN Saroj Shah, M.D., and her husband, Indravadan Shah, M.D., a retired surgeon, led a committee of local Indian caregivers to work on the development of the center. In a video posted on Parker’s website, she emphasized the importance of addressing the whole person in long-term care. She cited the example of a friend’s mother who was receiving “excellent” medical services at a nursing home, but “her cultural needs were not being met, and she was miserable.”

“We are only treating the disease and not the human being as a whole,” she said. “You have to be very sensitive to their cultural needs. If their social, phycological, spiritual and other needs are not satisfied, we are not treating the patient as a whole.”

In the video, Indravadan Shah said one recent study found that those who had their unique food, language and religion requirements met in long-term care got out of rehab faster, and did not have any complications, compared to their counterparts. Both Shahs applauded Parker for welcoming the idea with open arms.

For Rosenblut, the big takeaway for SNF leaders is to never assume that you know your service area and what it needs. “We’re always learning about our community here in Queens. Populations change and you need to know your customers. Trust me, we’re learning every week.”

I don’t know about you, but he had me at Indian food.

Follow Staff Writer Marty Stempniak @MStempniak.