Presbyterian Homes

Presbyterian Homes

   Ever keen to connect with the developing culture of care and housing for older people I am invited to travel north of the city to visit Presbyterian Homes – or more precisely – Westminster Place in Spokie (an Indian word) in Evanston. My guide is Dr Celia Berdes who is the Director of Research and has very kindly organised a visit.

This will be my last visit to a centre for housing and care in America and will bring to a total of five my exposure to care for older people here. It is interesting to note that they have all been faith based organisations. When asked the question ‘What difference does it make having a Church basis for your work?’ – all of the people have been rather stuck for an answer. The concensus is that they do not have to make a profit. Having seen the accounts of one organisation they are a very long way from making a loss! I wonder how I would reply to such a question at Temple Balsall?

It is an early start and I join the commuter train into Chicago. The Metra train which is one of those great double decker trains. I always prefer to sit on the lower deck and by the window if possible. Even after only three weeks in the city I recognise faces and even chat to one lady who tells me that I am looking smart today. I have taken advantage of the still strong exchange rate to but a blue blazer. Reminds me of school without the badge and tie!

I cross the the city a couple of blocks to the Redline of the ‘El’ and head north. A group of school children are being unkind to one of their number and I consider intervening but decide they are all much bigger than me and I’d probably come off worse. A change at Howard Station gets me to Spokie in time for a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin before I am picked up at 10am. Travelling on public transport takes time but I am glad of it. Space to think and wonder about this and that.

Celia picks me up and drives a couple of miles to the Campus. This is the third largest employer in Evanston (a northern suburb of Chicago) and its size and scope are impressive. Take a look at their web site to give you a sense of the work (

I express an interest to look at the physical facilities; the arrangements for pastoral care and to talk with the Director of Nursing about care planning. Built in 1920 and modernised during a number of periods especially in the 1960s and 1980s they complain of the difficulty of maintaining old buildings. I tell them of the age of ours and they roar with laughter! Celia clearly thinks that I am made of strong stuff because here the schedule:

10 15am Meet the Director of Pastoral Care – The Revd Dr Frank Bawldwin. He shows me the Chapel and explains something of his work. He has a team and suite of offices and has developed some interesting work in Field Education for theological students.

11 00 am Tour of the Activities facilities including the library; the music rooms; the craft rooms and the fitness suite with three swimming pools and a lot of older people running on the spot!

11 30 Ethics Committee. This is an interdisciplinary group including their resident doctor who meet monthly to discuss issues of concern. This month they are bothered by the number of very frail older people who refuse to give up driving. It is a fascinating discussion.

12 45 Meet with Linda Dotson the Administrator of Health Services for a tour of the two Dementia Units and the Nursing wings of the Campus. We discuss their Care Planning and she shares with me the paper work and the computer programme that is delivering this new approach to care. I am impressed with the quality of the exchange between carer and resident. It is funny seeing very old woman wearing basball caps.

1.45 Meet with Kavork Hagopiam the Director of Assisted Living (or Residential Care) and I am taken through their selection and assessment proceedures, When asked if I want anything I resist temptation (I have already walked 10 miles in the place!) and settle for a glass of water

2.30 Finish with a final opportuntity to reflect with Celia.


   How could one possibly sum this up? It is a very impressive set up with over 600 residents and 500 staff. There is much to ponder as the train trundles back into the city. I make copious notes and questions. I am so thankful for those who give of their time so freely. And always good to meet people who are passionate about older people.

Now I know what I need in the shop!

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