Two mornings a week, Michelle Siler, 49, drops her father, Merle Friedman, 86, off at the Adult Day Center at the JCC at 9 a.m. Her husband, Patrick, picks him up at 4 p.m. The JCC Adult Day Center gives Michelle, a costume designer, some relief during the day. With its social and recreational programs in a safe, fun and friendly community, her father stays active and Michelle gets peace of mind.
Michelle is well aware that caring for an elderly parent can be challenging. Fourteen years ago, she moved back to St. Louis from Chicago with her family and in with her parents to care for her mother who was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease. “We went back to living together like old fashioned families. Everyone assumes there’s a certain path we have to take. We were on that path. But nothing is more important than taking care of family,” said Michelle.
When her mother became ill, her father was working three days a week as a shoe salesman (he worked until he was 80). “But it was getting dangerous to leave mom at home by herself. She kept falling. A friend told me about the JCC Adult Day Center. Dad got my mother into the program where she was safe. This kept her out of a nursing home for at least two years,” stressed Michelle.
So, when it came time to care for her father, Michelle already knew about the many high-quality Federation-funded senior resources available in St. Louis, including the Adult Day Center. “Dad is lucky enough to be 86 and when you’re lucky enough to be 86, things just stop. The body wears out. He has severe orthopedic problems. When I can during the week, I take him to doctors and physical therapy. But I work. I have to get the kids to school and can’t be there for my father every day, during the day,” she explained.
When he’s at the Center, Merle has a good time. They serve lunch and snacks and play games to keep active. “The staff (at a ratio of 8:1) has fun with Dad,” said Michelle. “They chit chat with him about the Cardinals or ask what he’s having for dinner.” Merle brings in jokes and trivia questions. They are very attentive and know when Merle is having a good or a bad day. And he loves the social part. In fact, he’s even reconnected with some old friends.
Merle concurs. “If I didn’t do this, I’d just sit in a chair all day in front of the TV. or read. I love being around other people and enjoy the entrainment.”
This is one of the many Federation-supported high-quality resources for seniors that improve the quality of their lives and keep them living independently as long as possible. In addition to the Adult Day Center, there’s the JCC Social Nutrition program which offers hot kosher group and home delivered meals, low-income senior housing, housekeeping services, the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, and many recreational, cultural and social programs.
Michelle and her family feel very fortunate to live in St. Louis with a Jewish community that is so rich in resources and is here for them. Miranda, 18, is a graduate of Solomon Schechter Day School and serves on the regional board of NIFTY. Michael, 11, is currently in the 6th grade at Saul Mirowitz Community Day School. Michelle participates in a torah study group each Tuesday morning at Shaare Emeth. And she does costume design for various theater venues including the New Jewish Theatre.
These are challenging times for Jews of all ages. But as our seniors continue to live longer, Jewish Federation programs and services will continue to be there for them with the high standards of service we’ve provided for years and years.