Tales from Israel from Barry Barkan

Reb. Barry Barkan sends tales from Israel, where he and Debbie are introducing their pioneering work on culture change for eldercare institutions.

Some Very Good, Some Bad, Some Better, Then the Awesome


Dear Friends,

Some Very Good
We have planted the flag firmly for culture change, the liberation of elders in long term care and the homes that serve them, firmly in Israeli soil.

We have launched a pilot at the Rochlin Home in Jerusalem with another home participating and rearing to go. The first day we began with a two hour seminar on culture change and the Live Oak elder-centered community approach to the transformation of institutions. In the source book we handed out they translated Regenerative Community in Hebrew as community that gives life, the Source Book also translated the Pioneer Network Values into Hebrew, among other things. Participants included staff members on all levels, representatives from Eshel, the research and development agency for services to elders, the ministry of health and the ministry of social security. Our trip is sponsored by the Abraham and Sonia Rochlin Foundation. Tamara Edell Gottstein and Rabbi Joe Schonwald from the foundation did unbelievable advance work putting the pieces in place. The response to the idea of turning institutions into person-centered communities in which residents drive their own care was outstanding.

The Bad
In our seminar on Sunday, less than 36 hours after we arrived Debby had a seizure and became unconscious. It occurred right after she made her opening remarks. When she hit the stone floor, her head was split open and she was taken to Hadassah Hospital in an ambulance. Rabbi Joe and Chaim and one of the nurse managers accompanied her. After taking a few minutes to collect myself and fighting to hold back my tears, we reconvened everyone and proceeded with the seminar on the nature of culture change and community development. After that it was hard for anyone to be anything but open hearted about what we were presenting. Midway through the presentation, Chaim called to say that Debby was okay and conscious and he put her on the phone. She was completely present and wanted to make sure I was covering everything on our teaching plan.

After the seminar, Tamara drove me to the hospital, where Debby was waiting for an EEG and a CT Scan. They had already completed an X-Ray and physical exam, although it was a long time before they stitched up the wound in her head. Altogether, the experience of the institutional culture of the ER took 10 hours before she could come home.

Some Better
The good news is that there were no broken bones. The CT-Scan showed that there was no head injury. And the EEG showed that indeed it was a seizure. The ER docs wanted to be sure that there was no other cause of the blackout. The neurologist said that was not uncommon for jet lag and the accompanying lack of sleep to cause seizures among people with a history of seizure disorders.

By the next day Debby was eager to go back to do the second day of training, but we were able to prevail upon her to stay back and sleep.

Then the Awesome
The next day we had the first community meeting at the home. It was the first time the residents from independent living, skilled nursing, assisted living and day care ever came together. It was an amazing celebration of life. The staff thought if we could get 15 people we were doing well. About 50 residents participated. About ten staff members were present and four staff from Beit Boyer, another home that is committed to entering the culture change process, They sang, celebrated one another shared their stories and tackled some hard issues such as the resistance of some healthier independent residents to be with people from the skilled nursing home.

Our plan was to spend the first hour in community meeting followed by an hour of learning and training with the staff. Debby was there and she taught about the roles of the community developer in leading community meeting and championing the culture change. More to follow.
With love and blessings, Barry