By Stacey Dresner
LONMGEADOW – “Do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with God.”
This Bible passage from Micah 6:8 is on the plaque honoring the late George Sosin at the new rehabilitation center named after him at JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow.
On Nov. 3 the Sosin Center for Rehabilitation was dedicated at a ceremony attended by more than 100 JGS Lifecare staff and board members, community and business leaders, and local legislators. Also dedicated was Michael’s Café, which connects the new rehab center to the Leavitt Family Jewish Home. The café is named in honor of the late Michael Frankel, a past JGS Lifecare Board Chair.
Those attending the ceremony heard from JGS Lifecare administrators, board and committee members and local legislators, including Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, and Rep. Richard E. Neal, all of whom lauded the new center, the first certified Green House® residence in Western Massachusetts.
“Today we forever change the way we care for our elders,” announced Martin W. Baicker, FACGHE, president and CEO of JGS Lifecare.
Designed by Perkins Eastman, a leader in the planning and design of elder care facilities and short-term rehabilitation programs, the 24,000-square foot Sosin Center contains two “households,” each designed to accommodate 12 short-stay residents. Physical, occupational and speech rehabilitation will take place at the Sosin Center in a warm, home-like setting.
At the dedication, Dr. Robert Baevsky, chairman of the JGS Lifecare board, recalled the 2015 groundbreaking for the new center, which started the facility on its “transformation.”
“Today we are continuing on our path of transformation. Wait until you see what is inside,” he said. “We have made sure that the entire facility has the amenities that our residents have come to expect. We have created a home-like setting to help our residents to be more comfortable and to help with their transition back to their own homes. But beyond the brick and mortar project, we are also adopting a culture change and moving to a person-centered focus of care. This care in the home-like setting is what Green House is all about.”
Dr. Baevsky explained his commitment to the home-like Green House model of care.
“As a physician I am convinced of the positive healthcare outcomes under the Green House model and the improvements to the quality of life that it offers,” said Baevsky. “Both in the short-term rehabilitation center setting and as we move into the future transformation of the long-term settings as well, increased socialization, decreased use of medications, increased appetites and improved resident and staff satisfaction are among many of the positive health outcomes that have been proven under the Green House model of care.”
A Haimish Place
At the Sosin Center dedication, Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, director of Spiritual Life at JGS Lifecare, gave the invocation at the dedication ceremony, citing the strong, dedicated women who founded the Jewish nursing home in 1912.
“Mi Shebeirach avoteinu. May the one who blessed our ancestors, including the visionary and tenacious Daughters of Zion who 104 years ago made their dream a reality in Springfield, Massachusetts — a Jewish home for the elderly and the infirm. A haimish place that would nourish the lives of all who came here with dignity, security and compassion.
“Mi Shebeirach avoteinu. May the one who blessed our ancestors and inspired us over the years to continue building on their precious legacy bless us now at this sacred moment of dedication…at this next stage of our journey, the Sosin Center of Rehabilitation and Michael’s Café. Bless all who have labored and planned and tore their hair out over many months and years. Bless those who have served faithfully…given of their talent, time and tzedakah so generously.”
One example of that tzedakah is the $3 million gift left by George Sosin, who was a JGS volunteer, family member, and former resident. His second wife, Belle, was a longtime secretary at JGS and three of his four sisters were residents of the nursing home and Ruth’s House. Sosin visited his friends and family members at the home daily and was a devoted member of JGS’s minyan and attended Shabbat services and holiday celebrations at JGS.
“Over time I’ve been able to get to know many remarkable people who have helped us advance our sacred mission of caring,” said Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of Philanthropy, JGS Lifecare. “But there is one person who was more than remarkable, he was extraordinary. That man, who we honor today, is George Sosin. George was extraordinary because of his steadfast commitment to helping others in a quiet and unassuming way without any fanfare or need of any accolades. He was extraordinary because of his steadfast support of family and friends. George did things because they were the right thing to do. He didn’t need to be asked. He volunteered his support with never a moment of hesitation.”
That support included philanthropy. Sosin’s $3 million legacy gift was the largest single contribution received in JGS Lifecare’s 104-year history, and he had previously supported JGS throughout several fundraising campaigns.
“George’s gift propelled us to dream big. Before you is the result of that dream. A new building, a new, welcoming café and a new way of delivering care,” Halpern said.
‘A better life for our elders’
Those attending the Nov. 3 dedication were treated to a tour of the Sosin Center. They began in the living room, dining room and kitchen – all open space to be shared by the patients. A stone fireplace is the focal point of the cozy living room, while a large rectangular table seating 12 will be where patients eat their meals together. Those meals will be prepared in the sleek new kitchen anchored by a large island – with marked and separate dairy and meat areas – and stainless steel appliances.
Visitors walked through the hallways – where artwork by several local artists has been hung — and into some of the 24 private rooms, remarking on the clean design and warmth. “It’s nicer than my bathroom,” one visitor laughed, when she saw one of the full baths that is a part of each room.
The living space includes a den area for socializing and separate rooms for physical therapy and rehab.
Susan Ryan, chief operations officer of The Green House Project, talked about the “revolution” that is occurring in the care of elders.
“The Green House Project is a national initiative that is changing aging across the country,” she said. “Change of this magnitude is not easy and it requires visionary and dedicated leaders who will push through the status quo… I applaud you, I thank you and I assure you, the best is yet to come.”
Ryan and Martin Baicker. FACHE, president and CEO, JGS Lifecare, first met three years ago at a conference, where they started talking about Green House… “and here we are today, finally to bring it to fruition,” Ryan said.
Baicker was a driving force in the plan to institute the Green House model at JGS Lifecare. In 2011 JGS began a planning process to identify future needs. That plan eventually became Project Transformation, an initiative to reimagine and improve how care is delivered across the JGS Lifecare family of services.
After learning about the innovative Green House model, Baicker visited Mary’s Meadow in Holyoke, which offered both short-term and long-term small house care. Sister Mary Caritas, vice president of Sisters of Providence, which operates Mary’s Meadow, was a guest at the Sosin Center dedication.
“One day I dropped by [Mary’s Meadow] unannounced,” Baicker said. “I introduced myself to staff and visited a while. That visit was a turning point. I was struck by how much Mary’s Meadow looked like a home, how much the staff loved working in this model and how much the care was an improvement over traditional nursing homes.”
Baicker travelled around the Northeast to learn more about other small house models of nursing homes.
“I became convinced that small house represented our future because it provided dignity, choice and as better life for our elders,” he said.
Baicker took the JGS Lifecare board and staff on field trips to Mary’s Meadow and other facilities, and ultimately, the “courageous board” voted to adopt the small house model, he said.
“Today we are proudly adopting the Green House model founded on the principles of ‘Real Home, Meaningful Life and Empowered Staff,’” Baicker added.
At the Sosin Center, higher staffing levels will ensure more than a four-fold increase in staff time spent engaging with residents, while Green House training in those “core principles” of Meaningful Life, Real Home, and Empowered Staff, will help enrich relationships and the quality of care.
These empowered staff members will include “Shahbaz” which are, according to The Green House project, “versatile workers serving in direct care roles.”
The combination of the home-like setting and close relationship between patients and staff are designed to increase socialization, speed up recovery and get patients back into their own homes where they can continue to live independent lives.
“Currently, more than 64 percent of all short-stay residents at JGS Lifecare are successfully discharged to the community, which is more than 10 percent above the national average. With the addition of the Sosin Center, we expect those numbers to be even stronger,” Baicker added.
Michael’s Café was also dedicated on Nov. 3. The café connects the Sosin Center to the Leavitt Family Jewish Home.
The kosher café is dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Frankel, who was an outspoken advocate for Project Transformation.
“Naming the café in his honor is a permanent tribute not only to Frankel’s extraordinary commitment to the care of our elders at the highest standards, but also his vision for JGS Lifecare for generations to come,” Susan Halpern said.
The grand opening marked the completion of only Phase One of the JGS LIfecare renovations, which also included an enhancement of Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence.
Phase II will modernize two 40-bed wings of the Leavitt Family Jewish Home in the same homelike Green House model. Wernick Adult Day Health Care will be relocated and expanded to include a specialized Alzheimer’s program.
More than 150 supporters have contributed to a $9M Project Transformation capital campaign. According to campaign chairs Stephen Krevalin and Susan Kline, over $8 million has been raised to date. “The initial response is heartening,” said Krevalin. “It shows that many donors already understand the impact that our new facilities will have on the quality of life of our elders and others we serve,” he added. Says Kline, “We’ve made great progress, but there remains much to be done and substantial funds to be raised to turn the ‘Home,’ as it’s affectionately called, into a ‘home,’ and we invite our community to join us as we transform and build JGS Lifecare for the future.”
To achieve this vision, the fundraising goal of Project Transformation has been increased to $11 million. Krevalin says, “Once people see Project Transformation, they will understand its impact, and they will want to be part of it.”
An official grand opening is expected before the end of the year, pending successful completion of all regulatory requirements.