A Creative Solution Leads to a Life-Changing Intervention

What started as an inquiry into signing “Jeffrey” up for homemaker services through JFS Boulder turned in to a life-changing intervention. Earlier this year, Jeffrey’s knee collapsed leaving him unable to move. He was hospitalized, stabilized, sent home with a walker, and recommended for surgery at a future time. Jeffrey could barely get around his apartment and could not go anywhere on foot. He does not have a car and was functionally immobile—even unable to acquire food. He had been living in a state of dire poverty for years, receiving only a government stipend, all of which went to his rent. Jeffrey’s siblings supplemented his income so that he could buy food, but he went without other necessities.

Jeffrey’s brother, who lives out of state, says, “Because I perceived he was in harm’s way, I contacted Boulder Social Services. They knocked on his door and Jeffrey said he didn’t need anything. They left and informed me they could not do anything unless he consented. It was then that I turned to JFS and was fortunate enough to talk to Stuart (JFS Boulder programs coordinator), who was hugely empathetic.”

Upon an initial assessment, we discovered that Jeffrey had years’ worth of newspapers, mail, and memories piled in his apartment. We couldn’t provide a typical deep cleaning prior to regular homemaker services and needed another solution. Enter Ed Kass.

A retired social worker and longtime JFS Boulder para-chaplain and Friendly Visitor volunteer, Ed has a part-time organizing business and seemed like the right man for the job! Jeffrey’s brother offered to pay Ed for his services and JFS set up the first meeting.

“At first Jeffrey was reluctant for me to work with him and wanted to wait until spring,” says Ed. “I asked him to give me an hour and if it doesn’t work, he could tell me to leave. Jeffrey agreed and two and a half hours later we were still working!”

man organizing

Because Jeffrey had items that were 12-14 years old, Ed began with categorizing and arranging piles for Jeffrey to sort through more easily. “People want to tell their story and if they can do that by looking at a picture or other memories, it’s easier for them to get rid of things,” explains Ed. “I gave Jeffrey a box to sort, and he would reminisce while I cleaned nearby, and we got through it in about a week and a half.”

Jeffrey is thrilled with the results and exclaims, “I can see the floor and it looks like a human lives here now! It’s much easier to get around and I feel safer.”

The transformation has been tremendous. Ed says, “Jeffrey is much happier and seems lighter.” Ed continues to help Jeffrey each week by organizing his refrigerator, wiping counters, and ensuring things stay tidy. “I’ve noticed he’s started to throw out his newspapers and mail and is keeping things neater,” Ed remarks. “Anytime you’re trapped by a habit, you lose your freedom. It’s great to see that Jeffrey is more alive and living in the present!”

Jeffrey also went from eating cold food out of a can so as not to have dishes, to using his microwave to warm his food and make healthier meal choices. “I’m so grateful to Ed and JFS for helping me!” says Jeffrey. “It’s made such a difference and turned my life around.”

For more information about homemaker or care management services, visit jewishfamilyservice.org/boulder or call 720.248.4686.

About Jewish Family Service

Founded 150 years ago, we currently offer more than 30 programs and services, including food security, housing stability, mental health counseling, aging care, employment support, and disability services. JFS takes a holistic approach, assessing the various needs of the individual or family and provides the appropriate services all from one organization.

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One comment

  1. Roberta Reinfeld

    What a wonderful, heart-felt intervention – and what a sacred outcome!