Life-Changing Care at The Selfhelp Home

Not only has resident Jeffrey Korman touched almost every part of The Selfhelp Home and its levels of care, but The Selfhelp Home has also touched him.

In 2017, at the age of 62, Korman suffered three strokes several months apart. During that frightening time, he was in and out of the hospital and rehab, sometimes having frustrating experiences with healthcare. After the third stroke, he was not in good shape. “I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t swallow. I was being tube fed, and I had no idea what was going on,” Korman says.

He needed good rehab care. So Korman’s sister in Boston set out to research properties and saw that U.S. News & World Report had ranked The Selfhelp Home as a top-performing rehab and skilled nursing facility.

Korman was disoriented when he entered Selfhelp. But even then, he could tell that it was a different kind of place, a caring place, he says.. Under the care of the sixth-floor skilled nursing and rehab team, he began to improve.

Being only 62, Korman was in good shape before the strokes. Young, and active, it was important for him to get back to functioning quickly.

“I say that I’m the first person to come in here horizontal and leave vertical,” he jokes.

Yet, it was hard. Even seemingly simple tasks like swallowing or maintaining his balance were tough. “All these things our body does are really complicated. Standing and swallowing seem so basic, and I couldn’t do either,” Korman says.

Depressed, he remembered what a friend told him: “Just when you’re depressed that you lost the ability to do something, be positive because you’re really close to finding your way through the door.”

After that mystical moment, Korman began to keep his balance for a second or two, and then longer. He became well enough to start doing physical, occupational and speech therapy. And, again, he felt the caring Selfhelp difference.

Talk to Korman and he’ll start rattling off the names of the people who helped him at various points along his path – Justin, Chorda, Eric, Paul, Jody, Emily, Bridget, Megan, Benna, Laura, Liza, Sofie, Bernard, Kalvin – and he’ll circle back several times to add the names of others. The staff helped him to regain his functioning after the series of strokes.

“At some point, I said that I didn’t want to be good for 62 or good for a stroke victim, so they pushed me,” he says. “I guess it might be routine for them, but to me it was extraordinary. Every single person knew what they were doing. All across the board, the sixth floor [skilled nursing] was good as it could be. I felt everybody cheering me on.”

After close to 2 months in skilled nursing, Korman was getting better and it was time for him to move on. When he suffered his three strokes, he was moving into an apartment with two of his adult children. But that was no longer an option, and he had nowhere to go, with no furnishings readily available.

So the staff involved in his care came up with an idea: The Selfhelp Home set up a furnished apartment specifically for Korman’s needs, with a hybrid of independent living and some transitional care.

Korman thrived and, now back in good shape, gave back to the community, using his technology background to consult on the building’s new wifi system and starting a Scrabble night on Tuesdays.

He took the opportunity to really appreciate Selfhelp’s unique culture. Korman was touched by the stories of fellow residents, especially the stories of Holocaust survivors. He soaked up their life experiences, learning from their philosophy of surviving and thriving. And he was the recipient of what he calls “the real loving care of the residents who saw me have an adventure getting to the dinner table when I was first here.”

Having the strokes – a “slap in the face about my mortality” — and meeting the other residents made Korman realize what he takes for granted in his everyday life.

“You would never have a stroke on purpose, but to have a stop at 62-63 years old and hear the story of 90-year-olds and what their life’s been, fleeing Austria and then going to South America and finding their way to Chicago,” he says. “You hear the stories of everybody here — what an education and perspective on life, our path and spirituality.”

While usually people increase their level of care at senior facilities (independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing), Korman was doing it in reverse, moving from skilled nursing down to independent living.

“I think I was like Frankenstein at the beginning, and now people are afraid because I almost knock them over,” he says.

But now at 63 years old, he wasn’t ready for retirement living – not yet. So in July he was given the all-clear to be on his own. Korman bought a condo in Evanston and made arrangements to leave Selfhelp and go back part-time to his former computer systems job.

Overall, Korman is grateful for the healing and support he received at The Selfhelp Home, both from the caring staff and from the loving residents.

“Like I said, who would’ve purposefully had this experience?” he says. “But my recovery, the support in my recovery and just living here has just changed my life. I’m changed for having been here, even if I had no health problem.”

“You would never have a stroke on purpose, but to have a stop at 62-63 years old and hear the story of 90-year-olds and what their life’s been, fleeing Austria and then going to South America and finding their way to Chicago,” he says. “You hear the stories of everybody here — what an education and perspective on life, our path and spirituality.”

While usually people increase their level of care at senior facilities (independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing), Korman was doing it in reverse, moving from skilled nursing down to independent living.

“I think I was like Frankenstein at the beginning, and now people are afraid because I almost knock them over,” he says.

But now at 63 years old, he wasn’t ready for retirement living – not yet. So in July he was given the all-clear to be on his own. Korman bought a condo in Evanston and made arrangements to leave Selfhelp and go back part-time to his former computer systems job.

Overall, Korman is grateful for the healing and support he received at The Selfhelp Home, both from the caring staff and from the loving residents.

“Like I said, who would’ve purposefully had this experience?” he says. “But my recovery, the support in my recovery and just living here has just changed my life. I’m changed for having been here, even if I had no health problem.”