Meet Adele Bernstein

Meet Resident, Adele Bernstein

“If God gives you the years, you live.”

Adele’s devoted father, Oscar Shore, taught her to live by these enduring words.  Born in Philadelphia in 1914, she’s a proud 102 years young.  After losing her mother at the young age of 5, her father vowed to raise his only daughter with care, love and deeply rooted Jewish values.  With the help of doting grandparents and Sadye, an older cousin mentor, Adele became a very smart, independent woman.

Adele and her father moved to the west side of Chicago. She graduated from Marshall High School and found an executive secretarial job in a real estate office.  A friend introduced her to her future husband, Norman Bernstein, a fine man who sold dry goods. Adele stills recalls their first date with a twinkle in her eye. “We double dated, saw Bob Hope’s very first movie and met at Chicago’s Avalon Theatre (79th and Stony Island).”  They married in 1940, raised two wonderful children and has 6 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.  Adele feels grateful for the fulfilling life she’s lived with her late husband and family.

Adele believes she’s experienced both bad and good luck in her life.  The bad luck was losing her mom at a tender, vulnerable age.  Her good luck was in having a father, husband, and family who embraced her.  She describes her thoughts, “My late husband, son, and daughter are my lucky dividends.”  Adele truly lives each day, participating in art and poetry classes.  She also enjoys meeting new people and has many visitors.  She expressed her life today as part of the Selfhelp Home community:  “I am fortunate to not live in an institution, but in a special place that truly feels like home.  The staff is very caring, and I’m so very lucky to live at the Selfhelp Home.”


“Ever Since I Was 6 Years Old I Wanted to Visit The USA.” Meet Pascal Kraft, Selfhelp’s Newest German Intern.

Chicago is one of the most fantastic, biggest cities I’ve ever seen,” exclaims Pascal Kraft, who came to The Selfhelp Home from the small southwestern German city of Rastatt to begin his internship as part of the longstanding relationship Selfhelp enjoys with the Berlin-based Action Service Reconciliation for Peace (ASRP). Rastatt, population 47,000, sits on the outskirts of the Black Forest. People in Rastatt are “a lot more formal,” says Pascal. “They would never ask a stranger or near stranger ‘How are you doing?’ “Here in Chicago people are a lot friendlier. I like the familiarity.”

Pascal is the first in his family to go to college. His mother is a housewife and his father a facility manager. Part French, his great-grandfather fought against Germany for France. His name, Pascal, literally translates into “Easter” and “Passover,” because the same Latin word Paschalis was used for both.

As is customary in Germany, Pascal is using his gap year between completing high school and beginning college to work in the United States. “I worked in a rehab clinic in Germany as part of my required social internship and wanted to work with older adults. One of the most important classes in gymnasium is Holocaust studies. “We visited Dachau and when the opportunity came up to intern at Selfhelp, I knew I wanted to work at a place that helped the survivors.” Pascal plans to study criminal law when he returns to Germany to begin college.

“Ever since I was six years old I wanted to go to the USA,” says Pascal, who will be touring the West Coast down Highway 1 after visiting the Grand Canyon on his break. Next year after completing his internship at Selfhelp, he plans to visit Israel.

Pascal has his own apartment at The Selfhelp Home, which he describes as “wonderful.” He pitches in wherever he is needed, but is particularly adept at computer work and preparing the Kindles for the residents. “Pascal has a great sense of humor and is very easygoing, says Fern Shaffer, Director of Programs, who supervises Pascal. “The residents love him.”

For the past 18 years The Selfhelp Home has maintained a partnership with ASRP.  Action Reconciliation for Peace is a German based volunteer organization that supports opportunities for international encounters and intercultural understanding.   Each year The Selfhelp Home houses a young German intern who is fully integrated into its community. 

Selfhelp Staffers that are Making a Difference: A Series of Stories by contributor, Beth Gomberg-Hirsch.

Selfhelp Staffer Making a Difference:

A series of stories by Beth Gomberg-Hirsch, contributing writer.

Beth Gomberg Hirsch spends a lot of time visiting her mom, Helene, a resident of The Selfhelp Home. Behind-the-scenes, Beth sees the great work of the staff, some of whom may not be as visible to the public but make a tremendous difference in the lives of the residents.  They are, Beth says, “the special sauce” that makes Selfhelp unique. Activity Director Carmen Boss is the first profile in her series.

Meet Carmen Boss: A Close-Up with Carmen Boss,  Activity Director

If ever there was an energetic face of Selfhelp, it’s Carmen Boss. She exudes the positive “can- do” spirit that any institution would love to have. Carmen has been working at Selfhelp for 17 years.  Recruited by a friend from Sheridan Shores, Carmen has led activities for the 6th, 7th and 8th floor for 17 years.  She leads a dedicated, hardworking team, who all rely on each other to get the job done.

Carmen speaks in a loud and joyous voice with a slight hint of a Southern accent.  She says someone once commented to her that she is “as country as a truck of peaches.”  Carmen has lived in Chicago her whole life, has one son and two grandchildren.  She views all the residents of Selfhelp as her children and treats them as if they were family.

Carmen has a heart for people, no matter how difficult their situation. She strives to get the best out of all residents and wants them to respond at whatever level is practical or comfortable. She considers herself a staunch advocate of the residents and wants to provide maximum stimulation, sometimes even overriding family members who may feel their loved ones relatives are not as capable as Carmen feels they might be.  She wants everyone to know that she cares. Working at Selfhelp has been her calling.  Helping others comes easy to her, and she feels that by the grace of God, this is her calling.

Carmen’s greatest achievements at Selfhelp have been the Bell Choir she once ran and plays that she had the residents perform.  As many residents live in Selfhelp for long periods of time, it is important to provide appropriate and varied forms of stimulation for them.  She tries to get residents out on field trips, even if it means organizing a cadre of volunteers to push those who are mobility-challenged.  Carmen tries to meet residents on whatever level they are on, and is often surprised by the outcomes and capabilities of the residents in nursing care.

Carmen  loves that Selfhelp values culture, and appreciates the enriching experiences it provides for residents.  “This is not just a place to play Bingo,” she says.

Carmen Boss– a true asset to the Selfhelp Home.

Downsizing & Making the Move to a Senior Community

Ask the Expert Marnie Dawson.  A Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist

Founded in 2008, Dawson Relocation Services helps seniors and their families with the process of downsizing and moving to a new home. An active member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, Marnie engages with colleagues nationally to stay informed of best practices for serving the needs of her clients. She serves on the board of the Illinois Continuity of Care – Chicago Chapter, where she meets with other professionals serving the needs of seniors.


Can you tell us a little about your company?

I have five part-time people who work with me and we are able to come in very quickly to assist people when they decide to move into assisted living or downsize.  We can do everything from sorting through personal possessions to whittle down what is to be moved and packing it up to measuring the new space, determining the furniture placement and coordinating the actual move with the person’s movers.  The person doesn’t even have to be there if they don’t want to be!


How are you different from other relocation services?

We are a small company and able to provide very personalized services.  We meet with the client to help them decide what to sell, donate, give away or repurpose. Helping them select the furniture that will work the best in their new space is also part of our services.  I often tell people “I speak mover,” so we are able to assist them in coordinating the actual move and they don’t have to worry about a thing. We are fully insured, we also adhere to the association’s standards and ethics, so people can be assured that we are a reputable company.


What is the most challenging part of downsizing for most people?

Often, my clients are in their 80’s and 90’s and the physical process of moving can be very difficult for them. Most have lived in their homes for a very long time and accumulated a lot of possessions.  It can be very overwhelming for them and hard to decide what to part with.  We create a plan and move through the process with them.  We all have an emotional attachment to our “stuff” and having a neutral third party help sort through it makes it easier to let go.


What do you do when people don’t want to part with their possessions?

It is up to the person to decide what stays or goes.  I listen to their stories and help them focus on the space they will have available to them in their new home and how to best utilize it.  I listen to their stories and am there for emotional support and to provide a reality check.  I sometimes play the role of “task master” but mostly, I am there to remind them of the amount of space they have to work with and what will fit and what won’t.  Ultimately, they have the right to say “no” and decide if they want to keep something.


What can people expect to pay for your services?

I charge a very reasonable hourly rate for my services and the consultation is complimentary. The cost depends on how much of the move they want us to manage.  We provide an estimate prior to doing any work so people know what to expect, but depending on what needs to be done, it can be as little as a couple hundred dollars.


Will you help organize/downsize someone even if they are not going to be moving?

Certainly!  I have helped people who are going through a divorce and selling their home and some people come to me years before they plan to move to prepare for their eventual move to a senior living community or apartment.  We also help empty nesters who are moving to a smaller home or repurposing rooms in their existing homes.


Marnie enjoys work her work immensely and finds it very rewarding. Helping families and elderly people who are struggling with the overwhelming task of preparing for a move and taking away the stress is the main reason Marnie got into this business.  She understands that sorting through one’s life and working with movers is not always easy and is glad to lend a hand, dig through a basement, clean drawers and closets – whatever it takes to make the process easier.



Our Greasy Little Secret! Chanukah Latkes Recipe

Our Greasy Little Secret! 

The first night of Chanukah is right around the corner and after close to 80 years, Selfhelp has made close to 100,000 latkes – now that’s a lot of potatoes! So…  we are once again letting you in on the greasy secret that tastes OH SO GOOD. We’ve reduced our recipe down from 40 cups of peeled and shredded potatoes -so that you can feed 10 hungry friends with delicious latkes.

Here is what you need to feed 10 hungry friends:

  • 4 cups of peeled & shredded potatoes
  • ½ cup of grated onions
  • 5 tablespoons of salt- more? You decide!
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • Around 1 cup of vegetable oil for frying

(Grapeseed oil for faster and quicker browning)

Chanukah Happiness in 10 Easy Steps:

  1. Peel and shred the potatoes, remove the liquid with a cheese  cloth-or do it the old-fashioned way and squeeze by hand a little at a time.
  2. Shred the onions and mix them with the potatoes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat or whisk eggs with the salt.
  4. Mix the eggs and potatoes and onions together.
  5. Add the flour a little at a time.
  6. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it’s hot.
  7. Place a scoop of the potatoes mixture in the hot oil.
  8. Press down on each scoop to form a ¼ inch or ½ inch patty.
  9. Brown on both sides, and let the oil drain on a paper towel.
  10. 10. Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream on the side.

Yum -Enjoy!

Get the Recipe

Staff Longevity Contributes to High Quality Care

As you walk into The Selfhelp Home, you’re greeted by a welcoming “hello” from Linda Peek, a 16- year employee. On other days, that friendly welcome comes from Marlene Younan, a 24-year employee.

In an industry that has a significantly high turnover rate of approximately 70 percent, in other words, two out of three nursing home or long term care workers leave their jobs in the course of a year.

The Selfhelp story is vastly different.

Selfhelp is home to 172 employees and 20% have 16 or more years of service. 21 employees have 20 or more years. For example, 27 years ago Sofia Metovic began as an entry-level dishwasher. Her excellent work ethic drove her to the top and she eventually became our Dietary Manager overseeing 40 employees and 700 meals per day.

Agnes Daniel, was only 16 years old when she started at Selfhelp as a server. Today- 38 years later, Agnes is the Assistant Dietary Manager and is the longest serving employee at the Selfhelp home!

In the kitchen, delicious homemade rugulach cookies are a specialty and we have Najeba Youmaran to thank for that. With 35 years of service, she recently retired and held the secret recipe near and dear to her heart. She is teaching Symone Mikell about making rugulach, amongst others. Symone is a 6-year employee and the daughter of Sharon Mikel, a 23-year employee with a vast wealth of knowledge. Sharon’s mother, Pearl Sullivan who also worked at Selfhelp Home for 8 years.

Ask Luba Levitsky what it’s like to work at Selfhelp for 33 years and she will tell you, “it seems like yesterday!” On Shabbat, you’ll find Luba in the dining room making sure every guest is happy. Over the years, Luba has also been in charge of housekeeping and laundry.

On Fridays, Bernice Jackson, delivers the Shabbat wine and challah for residents on the healthcare floors. Bernice has been with Selfhelp for 34 years. Other Dietary cooks include Martha Ruilova and Maria Tapia, both with 25 years and Graciela Sanchez with 21 years.

Having a great culture at Selfhelp is due to the staff loyalty and longevity of its employees. The longevity of the staff also helps to maintain a certain environment at Selfhelp and keeps it from changing too much. This consistency leads to better quality care and services, provided by people the residents have come to know and trust.

Fern Shaffer has worked at Selfhelp for 22 years, Fern coordinates over 100 live music concerts a year, making Selfhelp a venue for some of the most renowned local musicians plus many interesting lectures and programs

On the 8th floor, Director of Nursing, Nerma Gayosa-Lamier, has a total of 22 years. She’s responsible for keeping Selfhelp a top rated home year after year, and also sets the tone for the high quality of care delivered to our residents. Her nursing team includes long time employees, Carmelita Gan, 19 years, Joy Demegillo, 20 years, Sonia Armintia, 19 years and Pio Chuanico with18 years.

Certified Nurse Assistants play a key role in the lives of our residents. Claudette Blaise, or “Mrs.Blaise” has been with Selfhelp for 31 years, Voncile Flowers, 28 years, Florida Dela Torre, 26 years and Begum Lodi 21 years. Personal Aids also play important roles. Rose Leandovksy, has 36 years. Fe O Torres has been smiling and singing along with our residents for the past 23 years, and Kalsang Dekyi, with 22 years.

Just about every square foot of Selfhelp has Alfredo Reyes Gonzalez name on it, a 23 year employee. Alfredo worked his way up and is now Selfhelp’s top engineer, his work includes the recently renovated movie theater, sanctuary and media room and the beautiful warm wood in the social hall and 8th floor and countless other repair projects we can’t see.

These dedicated and committed individuals are at the core of what we do at Selfhelp and as a result, the culture and mission of Selfhelp live on and evolve to meet the needs of the residents we know so well. This is what makes Selfhelp a truly unique and vital community.

The Big Hearts Behind the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation

Since 2007, The Selfhelp Home has been a recipient of a program funded by the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation. This program highlights the importance of giving while providing life changing access to a vibrant Jewish life for many Chicago Jewish residents.

Who Was Bernard Heerey?

Bernard Heerey (“Bud”) has been best described as a quite person, a good man and a great story teller. “Bud didn’t spend his money on travel, gambling or clothes. He gave his money to charities,” said Nathaniel Grey, his longtime lawyer and friend.

Bud was born and raised in Chicago. His parents emigrated from Ireland and raised Bud as a religious Catholic. Bud inherited the family business, fixing car radios and providing car batteries. The business was located on the part of Clark St., commonly known in the 1960’s as “Skid Row”, an impoverished area located south of North Ave. and north of the Chicago River. Bud understood the neighborhood.

In 1959 he met and enlisted the services of Nathaniel Grey, as a lawyer. Mr. Grey described Bud as a “Land Assembler.” He continued, “Bud was a risk taker: he would buy up small, contiguous parcels on Clark St—condemned buildings, small commercial buildings, old transient residential buildings—piece them together into a large, assembled holding, demolish the buildings, turn the vacant land into paved parking lots, and sell the assembled parcels to developers. He was essentially helping to clean up Skid Row.” He followed that pattern on other streets in Chicago.

Bud never married and had no children. He passed away at the age of 79. His thoughtful estate planning developed a substantial portion of his estate to charity. He left specific bequests to various Catholic institutions. He provided for a foundation that would give grants to Section 501-(C)(3) organizations irrespective of race, religion or creed, for the benefit of aged person and worthy students.

Mr. Grey was to oversee the estate and serve as the designated Trustee of the foundation. Officially organized in 2006 the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation now currently provides over $3 million annually in grant funds to section 501 (C)(3) institutions.

Scholarships and fellowships for worthy students attending Chicago based schools that currently fall within the foundation’s mission includes Solomon Schechter Day School, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Chicago Jewish Day School, Garrett- Evangelical theological Seminary, Cristo Ray Jesuit High School, De La Salle Institute, and the University of Chicago.

Chicago based institutions that receive funding by the foundation to benefit aged persons include The Selfehlp Home. Selfehlp is proud to be one of the early recipients of grants from the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation. At the Selfhelp Home, the foundation’s grant subsidizes the rent for several residents who otherwise could not afford the cost of living in a retirement community.

Other senior facilities supported by the foundation include CJE Senior Life, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

The Selfhelp Home Board President, Austin Hirsch, expressed his sincere gratitude towards the generous grants received from the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation over the past nine years.
“Having this program each year helps us in supporting our mission and allows us to expand our reach into the community to provide the best quality of life for seniors in a culturally rich Jewish environment.” said, Hirsch.

“The Foundation is doing what Bud wanted, making an impact on the lives of others” said Mr. Grey.

The 12 Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors

The benefits of Tai Chi for seniors are incredible. A low-impact, relaxing form of exercise that only requires about 20 minutes a day and rewards your efforts. Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art in the sense that it focuses on mental and spiritual aspects integrated into movement.

This meditative form of exercise consists of a series of 19 movements and one pose. You may have seen groups of people demonstrating its slow-moving circular forms in public parks.

Many seniors and senior care facilities, including the Selfhelp Home have been enjoying this style of workout and conditioning for more than 20 years.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi as we Age?

Tai chi is one of the most effective exercises for the health of mind and body and is taught around the world. Tai chi helps people to relax and feel better.
Here are 12 benefits of Tai Chi for seniors:

  1. Relieves physical effects of stress
  2. Promotes deep breathing
  3. Reduces bone loss in menopausal women
  4. Improves lower body and leg strength
  5. Helps with arthritis pain
  6. Reduces blood pressure
  7. Requires mind and body integration through mental imagery
  8. Accumulates energy by releasing endorphins rather than depleting it
  9. Enhances mental capacity and concentration
  10. Improves balance and stability by strengthening ankles and knees
  11. Promotes faster recovery from strokes and heart attacks
  12. Improves conditions of Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s

There are many styles of tai chi taught today and the form taught at Selfhelp is specially designed to meet the needs of elderly people and those with arthritis. Tai chi is performed by slowly and calmly moving and breathing through a series of movements which are collectively referred to as “the tai chi form.”

Renee Gatsis, who has been teaching Tai Chi for 16 years is certified by the Arthritis Foundation as well as the Tai Chi for Health Institute, and has been teaching tai chi for over 14 years.

At Selfhelp, Renee teaches Seated Tai Chi for Arthritis, which is the creation of Dr. Paul Lam, a practicing family physician and tai chi master with over 30 years of experience. The Arthritis Foundation has adopted Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis Program, which has been taught in the United States for approximately 15 years and is estimated to have helped over a million people. The movements are performed while sitting in a chair and often, the participants require a walker or wheelchair for mobility.

Harvard Medical School, in its May 2009 health publication, suggests that tai chi, which is often called meditation in motion, might well be referred to as “medication in motion,” for in addition to preventing falls and reducing the effects of arthritis, the practice of tai chi has been shown to be helpful for a number of medical conditions including; low bone density, breast cancer and its side effects, heart disease and failure, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, and stroke.

Selfhelp Residents Enjoy the Benefits

“I have an advanced case of arthritis and try to exercise each morning. I appreciate the sitting tai chi class because it gives me the opportunity to exercise my shoulders, I look forward to the class and don’t need to bring any equipment.” Dorothy Urman, 95  

Hotel like suites are the new nursing home

Luxury. It’s the word frequently being used today to describe the environment skilled nursing facilities are providing for post- acute short-term rehabilitation stays. “We are making the experience resemble a hotel stay. Meeting the demands of a new generation of seniors’ means redefining the future of traditional nursing homes,” said Austin Hirsch, President of The Selfhelp Home.

Plush robes, in-room dining, private suites, wi-fi and spa like services are all part of the experience.  When walking into the new Health and Rehabilitation Center at Selfhelp that opened in June 2015, calming colors and selected artwork are uplifting and encouraging. Lighting was selected for a more home-like sensibility inclusive of cushioned flooring for added safety.

“We wanted to create a space for seniors that doesn’t feel like their mothers nursing home- instead something that offers a strong sense of independence and dignity that can be lost after a decline in health said Dr. Martin Szanto, Medical Director for the Selfhelp Home.  “Combining high quality care and experienced therapists, these new environments ensure hospitals prevail with low readmission rates.” Selfhelp Home maintains one of the lowest hospital readmission rates in Illinois.

The center is an expansion of short-term rehabilitation services at Selfhelp attracting active seniors that want to regain strength and return home to their active lifestyles.  The architects worked closely with the nursing and therapy teams at Selfhelp. Storage and convenience were critical factors to consider, while a conscious effort was made to give as much space as possible to residents.

Large private suites, private bathrooms and wheelchair accessible showers are featured in each room.  Larger suites were designed to with enough space for overnight guests – positively reinforcing retraining and care of the patient.

Large spacious therapy rooms include, simulated kitchen and bathroom, and a private room for speech therapy. There are also community rooms for dining, activities, and ample room for therapy so that residents don’t have to leave the floor for rehabilitation. A water therapy room for whirlpool treatments was given a very relaxing, spa-like look.

There are quiet spaces for residents to socialize and have private conversations with family members and guests.

Renovating the building was challenging to create a high-end look and feel, while making sure it was consistent with the rest of The Selfhelp Home.

Shallow floor-to-floor heights and thin flat plate floor construction required renovation of plumbing and HVAC systems. Upgrades were necessary and needed, though at times, a challenge to the redesign and construction to ensure aesthetically pleasing results. Working within an existing retirement community also posed challenges. Residents living in apartments on the floor directly beneath the project needed to be temporarily relocated within the building.

Orthopedic surgeons rely on the post-acute care as a key component to a successful recovery.

According to Alan Given, Manager of the Orthopedic Service Line, Joint University at Weiss Memorial hospital, updated therapy rooms, overnight accommodations for a spouse and barrier free showers are features that can positively impact a patient’s outcomes post-op in a sub-acute nursing facility.

Selfhelp works closely with neighboring hospitals such as Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Presence Healthcare, RIC and Rush.