Posted by Jon Federman
In February, otherwise dull and blank walls at the JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham were brought to life when Waltham painter/printmaker Suzanne Hodes graciously donated three of her own colorful paintings to the agency, Joe and Minnie, Jerusalem Landscape, and River Reeds with Sand and Glue.
Hodes's husband Henry Linschitz had been a JF&CS client before he passed away in November 2014 at the age of 95. They had been married for more than 50 years. When Henry started to suffer from memory loss in his nineties, Suzanne did not know where to turn. "It's not easy to ask for help when it's a situation with a loved one and you don't know what help you might need or what to ask for – it's a grey, foggy area," explains Suzanne.
A friend mentioned to Suzanne that she knew someone who might be able to help her navigate the unchartered territory she faced. That friend connected her with Ruth Natanson, a geriatric care manager at JF&CS. "Ruth was very sympathetic and understanding. She gave me and my son more suggestions than we were able to use," says Suzanne. Soon a social worker was making regular visits to the house, and they were visited by a registered nurse. They brought Suzanne and Henry to visit an assisted living/nursing facility in Waltham and suggested other similar facilities. But Suzanne felt that something was not right. Henry had been a well-respected professor of chemistry at Brandeis University – a "brilliant man," as Suzanne describes.
She felt that Henry would be better off at home. According to Suzanne, living in a nursing home, "in a small room with people telling him what to do," would not work. She worried it would be confusing and traumatic for him. Ruth made Suzanne aware of other options that would not require Henry to leave their home. Eventually, Suzanne was able to hire a woman who could stay overnight.
When Suzanne wanted to bring Henry to their family cottage in Maine, Ruth recommended a local agency that sent over a woman five afternoons per week. "I was able to swim and sketch [those afternoons] and didn't have to worry. It was extremely helpful," says Suzanne.
In November 2014, Henry passed away. Suzanne was once again in difficult and unchartered territory. "The process of losing a spouse after 50 years is hard. Ruth was very helpful with the decisions I had to make. A place where I felt comfortable enough to cry was built into the relationship," explains Suzanne. "Ruth was a resource person. She is someone I could go to with questions. I felt there was someone out there who was aware of the whole situation. She would ask, ‘Is this or that working?'"
"JF&CS meant I had a professional case manager to help me with very basic decisions concerning the care of my dear husband. I am grateful for the help we got from JF&CS. I saw all these blank walls every time I was there and said, ‘They could use some art.' I cannot be a million dollar donor, but I can do some strong works of art to liven up the place."
Suzanne's painting River Reeds can be viewed right outside of CEO Rimma Zelfand's office on the third floor. Joe and Minnie will add life and color to the JF&CS third floor, and Jerusalem will be displayed prominently in the JF&CS lobby. Paintings are pictured clockwise from top left: Jerusalem, Joe and Minnie, and River Reeds.
Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.