Supplement to The Jewish News
Life at the2lome :Concern, Companionship, Community
harles S. Wolfe, executive vice president of
the Jewish Home for Aged, provides a
simple summary of his philosophy about
how the Home's residents should be viewed.
"We try to make life here as much like life on the
`outside' as we possibly can," says Wolfe, an
enthusiastic man whose devotion to his profession is
evident in his every action.
"That way, residents don't feel so much like they're
taking a step backwards by going into a nursing home.
We try to provide a stimulating environment that will
give people an opportunity to make a new life for
Religion is important to many of the Home's residents,
and the atmosphere is thoroughly and traditionally
Jewish, said Wolfe.
"All the holidays are celebrated. We have a small chapel
for weekday services and a larger synagogue for the
Sabbath and festivals.
"And what does every Jewish woman do on Friday
night? She lights the Sabbath candles," he said. "We
have one set of candles lit in the dining room, but we
can't have everyone lighting candles because of the fire
hazard. So we came up with a solution: we have a
special candle room with electric candles. Now all the
women can light their own candles, and they don't feel
separated from that part of their life, which was often
very important to them."
Unlike most nursing homes, where residents eat from
trays brought to their rooms, the Jewish Home for Aged
his a central dining room where those who aren't
bedridden eat family-style at tables set with china dishes
and metal cutlery.
Parties have been part of life at the Home since Ira
Sonnenblick took charge in the Petosky building. But
Wolfe added another innovation about five years ago:
"There's no reason why people who are not medically
restricted should not enjoy a drink once in a while,"
says Wolfe, who often tends bar at the late afternoon
get-togethers. "We serve both alcoholic and soft drinks,
and hors d'oeuvres are passed by resident, staff and
There's always a pianist around to play old favorites on
the upright piano, and a spirited group of residents to
join in singing. Others dance to the music, or clap their
"We try to de-institutionalize the place as much as
possible, to create a sense of community, to have people
feel somehow responsible for each other and for the
things that go on here," says Jean Epstein, director of
social work at the Home. "It's easier to live here if you
have a friend, and our programs are planned as a
medium for developing friendships."
The Home sometimes becomes, in effect, a surrogate
family for its residents.
"We try to maintain a family-type atmosphere," says
Carol Rosenberg, program director. "When residents
come here to live, we can't give them back a spouse, or
a mother, or a child who died. But we can give them
back their religious life, we can give them emotional
support, and we can give them things to do with their
"We recently had a party for Sukkot, and it was a
lovely day for the holiday. One resident came up to me
and said it didn't matter that it was a lovely day or that
we were serving cider and doughnuts; what mattered was
that we were all together. We're an extended family, a
A resident's own family has an important role to play
"The family is the link with the past and with the
future," says Jean Epstein. "We like to have a great
deal of communication with the families, and to make
things as easy as we can for them too."
"As difficult as it is for people to enter a nursing home,
it's sometimes more difficult for the family; they can
have a terrible sense of guilt."
Epstein and the other social workers meet with the
families of new residents every few months, to help them
adjust. The families form a support group, as they
realize they're not alone in their feelings and concerns.
Families are encouraged to visit the Home as often as
they can, and to participate in parties and celebrations.
"Every day at 2:30 is tea time, and the families are
always invited," says Epstein. "Individual parties, to
celebrate a personal or family event, can also be
Most nursing home residents have to give up vacations
and trips to nearby areas of interest. Not those who live
at the Jewish Home for Aged.
The Home's Auxiliary has sponsored a trip to Niagara
Falls, and twice a year a group of residents spends
several days at the Butzel Conference Center at Camp
Maas in Ortonville.
My Gracious Thanks
by Joseph Shapiro (from The Resident News)
I looked into the mirror and what did I see?
Joseph Shapiro, yes, that's me.
I looked again, lo and behold,
Right there a story was being told.
Joe, I thought to myself, old age has come your way
Slowly and surely, day after day.
I know I have done my best as a Jew
As I approach ninety-two.
Illnesses have a tendency of coming out
When least expected, without a doubt.
I became a hospital case, it's not pleasant to talk.
I found myself, that I could not walk.
Leaving the hospital, I heard a call
From the Jewish Home for Aged, Borman Hall.
I became a resident to relieve my pain,
And before long, I could walk again.
As I approach ninety-two, what can I say?
Thank you, dear Lord, and I must pray.
I am ever so grateful, surely I must be.
I am walking again, gracious thanks to Thee.
"Last summer we took some residents to a baseball
game at Tiger Stadium," says Carol Rosenberg. "To see
these Elderly men waving their canes over their shoulders,
yelling 'Go!' — well, it was wonderful. One man told
me, 'I never thought I'd live to smell the air of this
stadium again.' I would have carried him downtown on
my shoulders so he could have had that experience."
When trips to the theater are impractical, the theater
comes to the Home. Members of the "Annie" and
"Barnum" touring troupes performed at the Home while
their shows were playing in Detroit, and several residents
got in on the act by singing along.
The whole idea of the Home's programming effort is to
meet the unspoken needs of the residents, says
Rosenberg. "It's the caring, the sharing, the showing
that you want to have a good time, that make the Home
For residents suffering from physical or mental
impairment, the Home provides a full range of
rehabilitation services. Physical, occupational and speech
therapists collaborate to plan appropriate treatment.
"For residents who have difficulty with the most basic
life skills — grooming, dressing, eating — the
occupational therapists have an activities of daily living
program," says Pam Harris, R.N., director of Clinical
"The activities of daily living program aims to reteach
these basic skills by working with residents individually,
The therapists also work closely with the nursing staff to
benefit the residents.
Assessment and observation are major components of the
nurse's role at the Home, Harris says. The nurses pay
careful attention to the resident's perspective about how
he or she is feeling. Since most residents are at the
Home for several years, the nurses get to know them
well; long and loving relationships frequently develop.
The Home's professional staff — the social workers,
nurses, therapists and others — have different roles to
play in serving the residents but there's one thing they're
all dissatisfied with: maintaining the status quo. New
programs and activities are constantly being
"The main idea is that life here should be as enjoyable
as possible," says Wolfe. "To me, the highest praise
residents can give is that this is their home and they
enjoy being here."
0. T. Diane Payton and Rachel Tankus.