Looking for long-term care New guide details Bay Area options

janet silver ghent | correspondent

Your elderly mother, hospitalized after a fall, can no longer live in her own East Coast apartment — at least not without full-time care. Tired of racking up frequent flier miles, you’ve decided it would be easier to move her to the Bay Area. But where?

You send an email to about 100 friends and acquaintances and get back 100 different responses. Then you try to sort them out. But you’re still not sure whether the answer is assisted living, skilled nursing, home care or a continuing care facility, which spans independent living to skilled nursing, but may require a substantial entrance fee.

Not only that, but in your confused state, the facilities whose Web sites you check out online all seem about the same: The photos are exquisite, the writing in superlatives, the dining room luxurious. But what’s really behind the gate? And how much does it cost? Don’t expect to find all the answers on the Web sites.

But help is on the way. Jill and Jason Gilbert, a sister-and-brother team based in San Francisco, sent a crew of experts to senior facilities throughout the Bay Area. The result is the first “Gilbert Guide,” which covers long-term care options in San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Palo Alto, and southern Napa and Sonoma counties. East Bay and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, editions are about to be released, with plans for more in the works.

And unlike some guides that are supported by advertisers, this one contains price information. If a facility does not meet the standards of the evaluators, it is not included in the 395-page volume, released this fall and available for $24.95 at area bookstores, on Amazon.com or at www.Gilbertguide.com.

“We do not accept advertising,” says Jill Gilbert, the president and CEO. “We pay an expert to go out in the field. They are sent out with a highly developed tool to review the facilities on site, on foot.” Only facilities meeting their quality criteria are listed.

“Discharge planners,” the hospital social workers who help families find long-term care facilities, “have only so much time,” she adds. “This is a useful tool for them as well. We’re hoping people will be able to make a short list based on good-quality information.”

That information includes notes about grounds, languages spoken, physical and occupational therapy, social activities, and such amenities as manicures and makeovers. Beyond these amenities, facilities are coded as to whether they offer Alzheimer’s/dementia care or can accommodate special diets.

In addition, the differences between skilled nursing and assisted living are explained. Agencies providing in-home and hospice care are also included.

Says Amy Rassen, associate executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services: “The Gilbert Guide is easy to use and provides the kind of detail our clients need when thinking about what to do next and when making important decisions.”

Both Gilberts, as well as their father, Dr. Harvey A. Gilbert, medical director of the Ben Schaffer Cancer Institute in Lodi, and their mother, Deanne, have long been active in the Jewish community, particularly in AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and in federations. The senior Gilberts live in San Francisco part time.

Jill is involved in AIPAC’s leadership development program and has also participated in the Anti-Defamation League leadership program.

Also involved with AIPAC, Jason, Gilbert Guide’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, has served on the board of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Young Adults Division for the past four years, chairing its Super Sunday activities. He is a charter member of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and a member of the Ben-Gurion Society, a national leadership program. He attends services at Congregations Emanu-El in San Francisco and Kol Shofar in Tiburon.

The book includes a number of facilities with Jewish connections.

Under “skilled nursing,” San Francisco’s Jewish Home gets a stellar review as a “city unto itself,” where residents “seem spirited and engaged. The activity choices are seemingly endless.”

In the “assisted living” category, San Francisco’s Rhoda Goldman Plaza, which also has a secured Alzheimer’s/dementia floor, is described as “light and airy,” with residents’ artwork on the walls and a “lovely courtyard.”

And in the “home care” category, the S.F.-based JFCS’ Seniors at Home program is cited. The Institute on Aging and its Ruth Ann Rosenberg Adult Day Center, which have roots in San Francisco’s Jewish community, and the JCCSF’s Montefiore Senior Center are also listed.

However, Gilbert Guide, which plans to go national and become “the Consumer Reports of senior care,” according to Jill, is not geared specifically to the Jewish community.

“There’s no religious angle with this book, no favoritism,” she adds, noting that the guide is being used by professionals with the Alzheimer’s Association and the Family Caregiver Alliance as well as JFCS.

The guide started as a rather different project. Harvey Gilbert wanted to involve his adult children in setting up a foundation that would serve as a resource for cancer patients and their families. At the time, Jill had been living in Los Angeles and working in the film industry, while Jason, who had been living in the Bay Area for some time, was a software designer.

As Jill tells it, she began by looking for resource books and “was surprised, to say the least. There were none. A lot of hospitals would put together contact lists, and city governments had lists … but not enough.” Nor was she satisfied with the guides that were “advertiser-driven.”

She spent a year researching facilities in San Joaquin County, where her father’s cancer institute is located. But instead, she and her brother decided to produce a San Francisco-area guide as their first project.

Beyond the nuts and bolts of listing the facilities, the guide deals with insurance issues, noting what Medicare, Medi-Cal, managed care and long-term care policies cover. At the end is a section labeled “Gems,” which includes a plethora of resources from meal delivery to massage to medical supplies to music.

Jill says she and her brother see themselves as the “perfect audience” for such a book, “adult children who might get put in this situation.”

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].