Far too often we criticize our Jewish institutions and forget to mention our gratitude.
My mother, Shirley Stern, was a resident for her final two years on the Allderdice unit at the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of the Jewish Association on Aging. Prior to living there, she came for several weeks for rehab at Charles Morris, where they miraculously helped her to walk again.
While not a perfect facility, it offered us the comfort and support we needed as a family. I believe that Sharyn Rubin, JAA’s director of resident and community services, has wings hidden under her sweater, as she always looked for ways to solve impossible problems. I am writing because I am so grateful to have had the support over the years when dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, which she struggled with from 2003 to 2017.
My mom passed last week on May 31, one day shy of her 92nd birthday. We were surrounded by so much love and support from the staff of the Sivitz Hospice and the Allderdice unit. It was clear to me that the staff loved my mother, and that her passing was hard for them too. She wasn’t just another old person who was dying. They knew her and had worked really hard to take care of her.
They made a very difficult situation, perhaps the hardest I have ever had to deal with, a beautiful transition for my mom. I am forever grateful for having such a wonderful Jewish institution in our community.
My mom had lived both in my home and my brother’s home for a combination of 10 years. At some point it became too much for us and we had the difficult choice of placing her somewhere that we felt comfortable with and could afford. At first mom lived in a non-Jewish facility for a few years. Once mom went to live at Charles Morris I could see how much more comfortable we all were to be surrounded by familiar faces.
I remember how funny it was when I visited her during Christmas time at her other facility and she went to see Santa. She asked him if he was Jewish. He was a good sport about it and we renamed him Santa Schwartz. One of her meals served was a cheeseburger with bacon. Having late stage Alzheimer’s, she really didn’t notice or care, but I almost fainted. It was not just high treif, but it was also not great for the heart. I am grateful for the care they provided to her and their attempts to accommodate their lone Jew among them, but it just wasn’t the same.
The staff at Charles Morris, though, is hard-working and is touching the lives of families in their most difficult and vulnerable times. I can mainly speak for the Allderdice unit when I say what an important role its staff played in the life of my mother and in my life. It is the difference of feeling like my mom was put in storage or my mom lived on a unit that saw her as a valuable person.
It can feel like a circus on the Allderdice floor. You never know what to expect with a unit filled with people who have lost their inhibitions and can be unpredictable. The staff is incredibly tolerant. May they always receive adequate funding and the support they need from our community.
You never know how important these institutions are until you need them. I will be eternally grateful that Charles Morris was there for us, and to all of you who have made contributions to the JAA over the years.
Mickie Diamond is a licensed clinical social worker. She lives in Squirrel Hill.