For the New Year     

While the convention is to make resolutions for the secular new year, it is really our Jewish new year that focuses on reflection, repentance and resolve. This time of year gives us the opportunity to think about what matters—what the past has held, what we wish we had done differently and how we want to approach the future.

In thinking about this, I started a meeting with our management staff yesterday by asking them for three words that might be their “mantra” for the year ahead. There were many wonderful words spoken, some of which were peace, health and laughter. They are a thoughtful and caring group of people and their choices clearly reflected that shared set of beliefs and values.

For me, the word that resonated, and continues to resonate, is home. We have been deeply involved in planning for the future of our organization and working intently on ways to create true home for those entrusted to our care. Home-like, a term that has sufficed for many years, is not enough. If this is where people live, then it must be home to as much of an extent as we can possibly make it.

And this work has led us to talk about what home means, what it means to each of us and what it means to the elders in our world. Home means, we’ve all agreed, that you have space of your own as well as places in which you interact with others. Home means that you have choices, as many choices as possible including when to get up in the morning and go to bed at night, what you would like to eat and when you would like to eat, what activities you would like to do—not just those others choose for you. Home means, in many ways, respecting each individual’s independence to as full a level as possible, letting them live their life, not the life we design for them.

As I’ve thought about home, there is another element that I would define as critical. That element is relationships. Home is far more than physical space, it is safety and comfort, it is warmth and caring, it is the connection between people that matters far more.

When I close my eyes and visualize the word home, the first image that comes to mind is my parents, being enfolded in my mother’s soft embrace, perching myself on my father’s lap to have a conversation or ask a question or just to be close. Although both of them have long been gone, having left this life far too early when I was far too young, their memories still envelop me in what home is, what home means.

Today I am blessed with family—loving husband, wonderful children, grandchildren, close cousins and friends who are truly family—and I know that their connection is more “home” to me than a physical place could ever be.

As we look to the future for our residents, as we think about our own lives, it is the relationships that provide us the place we live, the place we love, that which we must cherish and protect.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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