Walk into a typical skilled nursing facility, and you might hear the occupants referred to as “patients.” But not at The William Breman Jewish Home. Here, there are no patients. The Home’s caregivers and staff consider these men and women “residents” and recently unveiled a heartwarming program that reminds visitors and families that these residents are people with interesting stories and lifetimes of experiences.

For the last nine months The Home has been working on a Resident Portrait Gallery, inspired by a national conference attended by The Home’s Assistant Director of Recreation Therapy Jennifer Albertson. As the driving force behind the effort, she has been working with the Home’s Culture Change team to make this unique project a reality at The William Breman Jewish Home.

Since 1995, The Home has been actively engaged in Culture Change, a movement in the senior care industry to individualize and de-institutionalize care given to the elderly. As part of Culture Change, The Home’s staff members are consistently assigned to the same floor, or “neighborhood,” and to the same residents who live there. Staff members become family with the residents, and the residents’ families become extended family to others in The Home. The Resident Portrait Gallery is the latest and one of the most personal Culture Change efforts that makes The Home look and feel more like a home.

Although The Home had posted resident pictures and biographies in the past, the Resident Portrait Gallery has a completely different look and purpose. “By artfully displaying the pictures and stories in each neighborhood dining room, the portraits become a more visible and vital part of our Home,” said The Home’s COO Beth Laxton in her welcoming remarks. “It encourages staff, volunteers, family members and visitors to learn about our residents, facilitates conversations between residents and staff, and helps residents develop friendships within their neighborhood.”

When told about the project, nearly all residents and family members were eager to participate. Family members were asked to complete the questionnaire if the resident had difficulty with it. Professional photographer Margery Diamond, whose sister lives at The Home, graciously volunteered to take each resident’s picture. Working with residents in the heat of summer to get each pose just right, she then turned the photos over to The Home’s Board President Jerry Weiner. Weiner owns PWD Labs, a post-production photography studio. He and his staff volunteered to finish the pictures and reformat the interviews together into beautifully framed arrangements.

The Resident Portrait Gallery was unveiled to the community at a progressive reception held on January 29th. More than 100 attendees meandered through The Home’s three neighborhoods to enjoy a variety of hors d’oeuvres and desserts while viewing the portraits displayed in each dining room. During the reception the excitement from the families and residents was palpable.

“As you read the interviews next to each portrait, you will get a real sense of just who the residents are that live in our Home,” said Harley Tabak, The Home’s CEO. He further commented that The Portrait Project “is a wonderful reminder to our visitors that there are real people living here.”

Residents such as Beryl, living in The Home after suffering a massive stroke, whose portrait tells the reader about his life as a major player in Atlanta’s legal community.

After the event, several families wrote touching notes to The Home’s staff to express their appreciation for the project. Among them was family member Donna Burbank who wrote “My mother had such a good time. It truly brought tears to my eyes.”

The William Breman Jewish Home has been providing skilled nursing care in the Jewish tradition for over 60 years. As one of Atlanta’s leading senior residential care providers, the Home also owns and operates The Zaban Tower, an independent and assisted living community for low income seniors, and The Cohen Home, an assisted living community in Johns Creek. For more information on The William Breman Jewish Home and current availability in our communities please visit www.wbjh.org.

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