Succeeding At Being A Long Distance Caregiver

Whether you live just one hour away or across the country, when an elderly or ill loved one needs assistance, the role of caregiver takes on new meaning and there may be challenges to overcome.

Aside from providing hands on care, there are other aspects of caregiving that are equally as important and ways you can contribute even though you are far away:

  • Provide help with finances, money management, or bill paying
  • Assess the home for safety concerns such as throw rugs that can be a fall hazard or dim lighting
  • Coordinate transportation to doctor’s visits, hair appointments and other regular outings
  • Correspond regularly with the person needing care through phone calls, texts and/or emails to stay connected and to let them know you are there to listen
  • Arrange for in-home care—hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help obtain adaptive medical equipment such as a walker, shower chair, commode, etc.
  • Research assisted living centers, skilled nursing homes or communities where all levels of care are provided as an alternative to home care or if health care needs change.
  • Provide emotional support or occasional respite care for the primary caregiver who has taken on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities
  • Serve as an information coordinator—research health problems, medications, and clarify insurance benefits and claims
  • Keep family and friends updated and informed about the person’s condition
  • Consider using technology to communicate and see monitor what is happening at the person’s home. There are caregiving apps available that allow long-distance caregivers and their sick loved ones to keep track of appointments and medications with pre-set reminders or alarms. Cameras can allow long-distance caregivers to see a loved one from his or her phone and monitor activities or status from far away. Medical on-call systems, some offered through local hospitals, can assist if something happens and the caregiver is not on site.
  • Create an emergency plan and gather necessary paperwork in one place in case the individual’s condition changes quickly or unexpectedly. Gather documents into a folder including advance directives, healthcare power of attorney, health insurance cards/policy, birth certificate, Social Security card, the person’s will and a list of his/her medications.
  • Keep a separate folder with paid medical bills in case there is a question or mistake in billing. You will need the account number and other information on the bill and these documents will be necessary at the end of the year for tax purposes.

Visit as often as you can; not only might you notice something that needs to be done and can be taken care of from a distance, but you can also relieve the primary caregiver for a short time.  Learn what you can about the person’s illness so you can better understand the course of the illness, prevent crises and assist with healthcare management.

You might consider hiring a geriatric case manager to assist, especially if there are no close family members or friends to provide daily assistance.   The case manager can provide updates, help guide decision-making around healthcare needs, schedule conference calls with doctors, the healthcare team and keep everyone up-to-date about the person’s health and progress. An independent advocate can help to oversee care and there are several resources, many of them free, offered through the Illinois Department on Aging.

Most importantly, while distance may separate you from your loved one, you can close the gap by communicating frequently and finding different ways to provide assistance and support.



Screenings of REFUGE Shown Around the World

REFUGE: Stories of the Selfhelp Home, Premieres in Poland and Returns to Germany for Eleven Screenings

Ethan Bensinger, a Selfhelp Board member, and Director of the documentary REFUGE: Stories of the Selfhelp Home, returned to Europe this fall to screen his film. This was the 4th consecutive year that Bensinger has reached out to audiences in Germany, but this year he added Poland to his twenty-five day European tour.

“We were thrilled to have received an invitation from the JCC in Krakow to screen REFUGE,” said Bensinger. “The organizers of the program well understood that the  eyewitness testimony related by the residents of the Selfhelp Home would provide a unique educational opportunity to the Polish community. The suffering of the Polish Jews was different; they didn’t have the opportunity to escape Central Europe on the Kindertransport or to seek refuge in Shanghai or in the United States. And, of course Kristallnacht was unique to the German and Austrian pre-war Jewish experience. To many of the audience members, these stories were new.”

His next stop was the Medienzentrum (media center) in Frankfurt, where Bensinger used the film and its accompanying study guide to facilitate a Holocaust training seminar for German high school teachers. Bensinger stated “The teachers found the study guide especially useful because it provides additional contextual resources and also directly links classroom study exercises, such as acting out roles, to the testimony provided in the film.”

While in Frankfurt, Bensinger also had the opportunity to screen REFUGE at the school that his father Ernst had attended prior to the war. “Screening and speaking at the Wöhlerschule was an extremely emotional event for me, somewhat of a closing of the circle. For most of the students this was the first time that they had the opportunity to meet a child of a former student who was forced during the Nazi period to flee Germany.”

Europa-University in Flensburg, a city in Northern Germany near the Danish border, was Bensinger’s next destination. There, at the invitation of Professor Birgit Dawes, Bensinger screened his documentary to students from Germany and several Scandinavian countries. In commenting on the film, Professor Dawes said:

Especially in a time when there is growing anti-Semitism in Germany, it is crucial that we-as German citizens and educators-remind ourselves and our students of the importance of remembering the Holocaust. As Germans, we have a particular national responsibility to hold up that memory, and educate our students accordingly. REFUGE is a crucial and most valuable contribution to that memory.

After several appearances at schools in the Hamburg area, Bensinger travelled to Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany. There, utilizing his film and his own family’s experiences during the war, Bensinger spoke on the topic of the “Transmission of Transgenerational Holocaust Memory.”* “ This was my 3rd visit to Lüneburg, a town with a very dark past”, said Bensinger. “It is here that the Nazis “euthanized” hundreds of children during the war. And, in previous years I screened REFUGE in a classroom building that was built by the Germans as an army barracks. Today Lüneburg is trying to come to grips with its past. Standing tall among those former Nazi barracks is a Daniel Liebeskind designed classroom building whose architectural details evoke the images of the Holocaust.”

Bensinger’s last stop on his journey was his mother’s hometown Fulda, where his screening coincided with the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht. “ I was especially moved by the fact that many of the students who had seen the film earlier in the day, took the time to attend the commemoration at the former synagogue that evening. Evidently, something had resonated with them,” said Bensinger.

Bensinger believes that in light of the recent immigration of almost one million refugees, Germany can learn from the origins of Selfhelp, and how a community came together to care for its own. This was reiterated by a student at Leuphana University who said:

It was impressive to see how the lives of the refugees continued upon arrival in the United States. In school we learned about the concentration camps and how the people had to suffer. But we never learned anything about the life of the Jews after they left Germany. 

Along with presenting his film in Europe, Bensinger is a second-generation speaker on behalf of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

Our Greasy Little Secret! Chanukah Latkes Recipe from The Selfhelp Home

Our Greasy Little Secret! 

The first night of Chanukah is right around the corner and after close to 80 years, Selfhelp has fried up close to 100,000 latkes – now that’s a lot of potatoes!

So… we letting you in on our 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. 1Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream on the side.

Selfhelp Celebrates 5 Consecutive Years as A U.S. News & World Report “Best Nursing Home” -Selfhelp Ranks Among the Top 15% in the Nation 

Every year, U.S. News & World Report evaluates more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country. The Selfhelp Home is one of the elite winners, ranking in the top 15 percent of all nursing facilities in the nation. 2017 marks the 5th consecutive year that The Selfhelp Home has received this distinct designation.

“Our team is dedicated to continuously learning and training staff and achieving the highest quality of care for our residents and short-term patients,” said Nerma Lamier, Director of Nursing at The Selfhelp Home.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, (CMS) US Department of Health and Human Services, ranks The Selfhelp Home 5 out of 5 stars. The CMS Five-Star Quality Rating System was designed to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily. The Selfhelp Home is rated  far above average  based on health inspections, nursing home staffing and quality measures.

Selfhelp Board President Austin Hirsch said, “I commend all the staff for their ongoing dedication to our residents and families and maintaining the highest quality of care.  More importantly, the tender loving care given by our staff is immeasurable and goes beyond any government rating.”




Meet Resident Donald Davidson

Contributed by Beverly Frank- [email protected]

Donald is 80 years young and embraces each day with contagious optimism and an unquenchable passion for life.  He grew up on Chicago’s south side (82nd and Luella Avenue), attended Horace Mann grammar school and graduated as South Shore High School’s esteemed Valedictorian.  He credits his Russian-born father (Minsk) for his uncanny sense of humor, love of the arts and positive attitude.  He graduated from the University of Michigan with a Masters in Chemical Engineering.  He was inspired by the challenging world of computers and became the Director of the Computer Technology Department at Universal Oil Products in Des Plaines, IL.  His successful 42- year career was rich with milestones and achievements.  Donald has enjoyed traveling the globe and maximized his free time to explore and develop his artistic talents.  He planned ahead and retired at the age of 65.

“Live for the moment and let the past go.”

Donald has a warm, extroverted personality and seeks the company of upbeat, bright, engaging and positive individuals.  He has developed many diverse interests and continues pursuing them with abandon.  His favorite hobbies are music, dancing and great books.  He discovered the world of folk dancing as a young man and became an active, involved participant.  After mastering the basics, he shared his skills and became a popular folk dancing instructor.  He’s particularly drawn to Eastern European music.  His CD collection is eclectic and showcases a variety of genres including Klezmer, Gypsy, Bulgarian, Yugoslavian, Jazz and more.  His social life has always been active and folk dancing became his favorite place for meeting and networking with fascinating people.  Reading a variety of great books has always been second nature to Donald.  He’s an avid reader and is in the process of compiling his updated book collection.  It includes a variety of rare collector’s items and numbers approximately 40,000 volumes.

Donald was introduced to the Selfhelp Home in 2012.  His beloved, late wife, Rita, was a patient in the rehabilitation program.  He was impressed with the unique history, compassionate staff and unsurpassed high quality standards.  When management inquired if he would consider moving into the Selfhelp Home, his immediate response was, “I simply wouldn’t consider living anyplace else!”

 Donald is an extremely positive, forward thinking individual.  He’s involved in various activities and is a loyal fan of the Sunday afternoon concerts and current event discussions.  He enjoys schmoozing and engaging in all kinds of conversations with his growing circle of friends.  Donald is close to his younger siblings and is very involved in the lives of his three children and grandchildren.  Donald strives to live each day with humor, joy and always sees the glass as more than half full. 

“Everything that has happened to me in my life has been a learning experience.”  Donald doesn’t dwell on past mistakes and concludes:  “I’ve lived a full life and have absolutely zero regrets.  I’m looking forward to each day of my new chapter.”









Two Organizations Seeing Eye to Eye on a Mission to Help Refugees  

Contributed by Beth Gomberg-Hirsch

The mission of The Selfhelp Home dates back to the 1930’s where a community within a community helped those fleeing Nazi Germany find a safe place to live and flourish in a new country, with a new language, supported by people who understood their past. As refugees, they established the Selfhelp Home to provide care and compassion for their fellow Holocaust survivors. While that original population is now dwindling, the core commitment to helping the stranger continues. Through the guidance and mentoring of Sophie Metovic, the dietary manager, the Selfhelp Home has partnered with RefugeeOne, an independent non-for-profit organization founded in 1982 that provides assistance to refugees resettled in the Chicago area. In needing to become an independent, self-supporting member of a new community as quickly as possible, employment is key, so in July 2016, the partnership between the Selfhelp Home and RefugeeOne began.

Ms. Metovic currently employs four people referenced to her from RefugeeOne. These individuals are so grateful for employment, that they see the dignity in jobs that others might not, and are hard workers trying to do their best, even with severe language barriers. Ms. Metovic tries to match their skills with the tasks she has available ranging from dishwashing, waiting on tables, baking and other miscellaneous jobs. Language is a continual challenge, but non-verbal body language speaks volumes. Some of the languages spoken are French, Portuguese, Swahili, Kinyindu, Kituba, Kikongo, Lingala and Tigrjnya.

Here are some of the brief biographies of the people: 

Adim Tekia, from Eritrea and Ethiopia, has a husband in Israel who is an engineer. She has a ten-year-old son who comes to the Selfhelp Home everyday after school and quietly sits in a corner and does his homework while his mother works. She helps in the kitchen and wants to get her paperwork in order so that someday she can be reunited with her husband. She is working to pay her rent and feels lucky to have a job where she can begin to learn English and feel supported and safe. She has been here for 10 months.

Tishibola Kalala is here from the Congo with her husband and two children. She is now pregnant with her third child and works as a waitress in the dining room. This is her first job, and in her limited English, with a big smile, she says, “everyone here is very nice.” She has been in Chicago for seven months.

Wakilongo Kahugusi from the Congo was a nurse in his country, and would someday like to be licensed here as he learns more English. He has three children- a daughter who is 14, and two sons, 13 and five. Wakilongo has been here six months and takes his job very seriously. He dresses very professionally, and is very hard working, always trying to please. He serves coffee to residents and does dishwashing.

Lalia Mweniake is here from Africa and lived in the Congo. She has worked at Selfhelp for 1 year. She has a husband that lives in the Congo and a 6 month old baby named Peter. Lalia lives with her sister Mapenzi, who also worked at the Selfhelp home and recently had a baby. The sisters give each other support. Lalia works in our Dietary department as a waitress in the dining room. In the Congo she studied Social Work and says the best part about her job is that she gets to help people and enjoys being a part of Selfhelp.

Ms. Metovic reports that as immigrants, like the people that inhabited the Selfhelp Home originally, there is gratefulness in being here, and a connection is made with the residents as if a special bond exists. There is a cultural connection of being the “other” and finding yourself in a secure space. Selfhelp has become a safe haven providing a mixture of love and caring while trying to teach the American way. Wakilongo described working in the kitchen to working in a hospital. , Ms. Metovic blanched, thinking he was referring to Selfhelp as being cold and institutional. “No, No, ” he said.” It is because it is so clean, and we have to wash our hands so many times in the kitchen.”

It is the goal of this partnership to help new refugees integrate into this country-to to become what they ultimately want to be. It is a challenge to recognize the dignity of all work as a step to citizenship. These four individuals realize they are lucky to have been given opportunity, and want to provide the residents of Selfhelp the care and assistance they deserve. It supports the initial mission of the Home to be able to go back to the Home’s roots, and support the stranger among us.

You can learn more about RefugeeOne and our partnership in the featured video.

Meet Resident Finny Rosner

Contributed by Beverly Frank- [email protected]

Finny was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria.  She’s a tall, elegant ninety-two (92) years young.  Her memorable childhood home was filled with books, art, music and love.  As a young girl, she learned to speak French, in addition to her native German, and treasured her childhood years.  Her life took a dramatic turn for the worse when the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany occurred in March of 1938.

I’ll never forget March 12, 1938.  Hitler annexed Austria, and we Jews were thrown out of our homeland.  I was furious! 

 Finny moved to Chicago to live with relatives when she was thirteen (13) years old.  She mastered English, wore hand-me-down clothes and rebuilt her life.  She was drawn to inspiring young people and became a high school English teacher, first at Hyde Park High School, then at Near North Career Metro High School in the (former) Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

She enjoyed her work and encouraged many poor immigrant students to overcome language barriers. “If you can live in a country, you can learn the language.”   Finny married a gentleman from a cultured family and gave birth to three (3) wonderful children.  They’ve each been successful in their careers.  She values their integrity and close relationships with each other.  “My kids are the most decent human beings, they are good people and truly like each other.” 

 Finny is an energetic, optimistic individual who exudes both confidence and humility, with a delicious sense of humor.  “As I’ve lived my life, I’ve adapted and am grateful for the ability to let go of negative and destructive things.  Gratitude enhances my daily life.”

 She’s an avid reader and an involved book club participant.  She loves the theatre and was a regular subscriber to the Goodman, Northlight and Steppenwolf theatres for many years.

Smiling, she sums up her reflections, “The Selfhelp Home is a kind, comfortable place.  I appreciate the free choice and variety of activities.  The memory games keep my gray matter active and the Sunday concerts are the best.  I’m grateful for each and every day that I’m a member of this amazing community!”  


This is What Occupational Therapy Looks Like for Artist Paula Weiner

This is what Occupational Therapy looks like for artist Paula Weiner, who is undergoing her post- hospital rehabilitation in our Health & Rehabilitation Center. Painting everyday as part of her Occupational Therapy program will help  her get back to what she loves doing most, creating beautiful works of art!  Learn more about Our Health & Rehabilitation Center. 

Another Year Completed of Art & Inspiration with the 5th graders at BZAEDS

This month, we finished up another year of working with the 5th graders at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School (BZAEDS). This year, our annual intergenerational program with the school focused on the artist Marc Chaggal, and the various themes around his artwork.

Together, The Selfhelp Home residents and BZARDS students  explored topics around love, music, family, faith and more.  We worked together to create two permanent installations, one to be displayed in each facility. The paintings were made together and reflect the year’s conversations, stories and dreams as residents and students got to know one another.

The inter-generational program is facilitated by Fabiana Glazer, founder of GoldMind Arts. Throughout the school year the students from the 5th grade class visit with residents at Selfhelp and work on a project. The goal was to create a work of art through meaningful discussions about love, music, family and faith.  “We brought these two generations together and put them to work towards a meaningful work of art that facilitated conversation – and in the end we have a piece of art we can all feel proud of,” Glazer said.

Selfhelp Staffers Making a Difference: Meet Kim Dudasik

Contributed by Beth Gomberg-Hirsch: [email protected]

Meet Kim Dudasik, Activity Team Member

Kim is the newest member of the activities team and has been a member of the Selfhelp family for the past 5 years. Kim works  for the Rehabilitation floor, and the Long Term Care Floors at Selfhelp.  She was encouraged to apply for the job by a friend who was related to Nerma Lamier, Director of Nursing.  Kim grew up helping handicapped relatives, loved to babysit, and used to volunteer in an institution with mentally handicapped adults.

Kim feels obligated to fill her daily eight hour shift effectively and efficiently, and considers a day well spent if all the residents are satisfied and safe.  Every day is a new adventure and every day creates a new memory for her.  Kim is grateful to be part of a well working team and feels very supported.  She loves working at a place where she can show her goofy and “corny” side and be silly to make people laugh.

Her goal is to make people smile.  Kim loves to sing and dance, and it’s a pleasure to watch her during musical experiences where she really comes to life. She treats the residents as if they were her own grandparents by freely giving them hugs and kisses and joking with them comfortably. She says it is her goal to make the residents feel secure and happy at the Home, and to insure that Selfhelp feels like it is indeed their home. She wants everyone to know that it is okay to live at Selfhelp and that people care about you there, and will love you like they love their own grandparent. She wants everyone’s stay at Selfhelp to be enjoyable as she tries to infect residents with her great attitude.

Kim has learned how to deal with death, and has accepted that as part of the job, although she says it’s a tough lesson to learn.  Kim loves to bake, and to travel.  She loves a good adventure and will try anything once.  She even loves to cliff dive.  She describes herself as a bit of a daredevil and likes to push herself to overcome fear.

Kim views life at Selfhelp as a place to create a memory for each day, and that “each day is a new journey.”  We are so lucky to be the object of Kim’s enthusiasm.

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.