Care for the later years

Two Norwegian institutions founded over a century ago are Brooklyn’s current leaders in elder care

Photo courtesy of NCH&HC
Norwegians know that a hyggelig environment is necessary for wellness.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

It is amazing to me that one can be considered a senior from age 55 to 100 plus. As people live longer, healthier lives, society must rethink this definition!

But, in the meantime, health care for seniors is being transformed. Two Norwegian-American philanthropic organizations are growing to serve this population. Both the Norwegian Christian Home & Health Center (NCH&HC) and Eger Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. have been serving Brooklyn seniors for over a hundred years.

From widows to wellness
In 1903, the Norwegian Christian Home was created by the Hansens, a married couple, to provide a caring residence for elderly widows. In 1911, they began to include men. They have since grown exponentially, providing rehabilitation and respite care, support services, and three levels of housing: Independent, for those who can tend to their own care; Assisted, a long-term senior care option that provides support with meals, medication, bathing, dressing, and transportation, as needed; and Skilled Nursing, for people who require services that only a licensed nurse can provide.

NCH&HC’s Independent Living option offers Brooklynites (and others) a well-maintained home—a growing concern, as housing is scarce and prices have been increasing faster in this borough than those in Manhattan. It also allows folks to remain part of the larger community.

According to their website, this service also provides residents with “three quality meals each day, individually formulated to meet all special dietary needs and served in a formal dining room.” Residents are checked regularly and rooms have mechanisms to signal for help if needed. Household chores, including laundry, are taken care of. And if further assistance becomes necessary, residents have a way to age in place by moving to an Assisted or Skilled Nursing room.

As our health-care system is upended, one good thing has come out of the chaos: a focus on preventative practices and creative health service opportunities that allow for living healthier lives. NCH&HC now offers rehabilitation services for residents, as well as outpatients. Locals have given it rave reviews.

Stanley Carlsen, who’s been an in- and outpatient of the NCH’s Rehabilitative Services, said, “The Norwegian Home was excellent as far as the nursing service and therapy. And the doctor was good also. The nurses’ aids were especially excellent. Best out of all the hospitals I’ve been in, and I’ve been in four hospitals.”

Another essential factor for healing is the environment, and being an institution created by Norwegians, this organization’s emphasis on the environment is particularly evident. The common spaces, especially the dining room, are cozy and elegant, and include “sitting rooms, a chapel, a library, a crafts room, game and activity rooms, an auditorium, and an exhibit gallery.”

Although these interiors are wonderful, the exterior spaces are even more impressive. A large portion of the property has been preserved as an open green space. This garden soothes the soul and mind with its ponds, gazebo, and landscaping.

Why is the Home doing so well? According to the NCH&HC, “We attribute at least part of our excellent results to the fact that we are bound by our mission: to care.” And the Home is not resting on its laurels. “Future plans include a wellness program, general health and nutritional counseling, and health-related seminars as adjunctive treatment methods.”

Final days with dignity
What about health care for those who are in their last days of life? At Eger Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc., the focus is Hospice Care.

Eger was founded in 1916 with funds and two Brooklyn homes donated by Carl Michael Eger and through the hard work of Eger’s sister, Catherine, and Pastor Charles S. Everson of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. The home moved to Staten Island 10 years later for a much larger property. Carol Ann Benanti told Staten Island Advance that as of 2012, “with 378 beds, the skilled nursing facility is among one of the largest New York health-care centers,” and “the campus continues to expand with gardens, a log cabin, Founder’s Park, Eger Way, [and] Harbor House Assisted Living in 2004.”

Hospice care is limited in New York, with far more need than rooms and service available. But Eger Health Care and Rehabilitation Center has risen to meet the dire need. According to Eger, our “mission is to care for the chronically ill seniors, the disabled of any age, and to provide end of life care. We have been providing hospice care for decades.”

In 2012, The Addeo Hospice Residence opened at Eger. Its creation was a true partnership bringing together many on Staten Island. Eger home contributed the land and an eight-bedroom home. After fundraising and renovations, the home dedicated to hospice care opened, providing eight wonderful rooms. The Staten Island University Hospital Hospice handles the care in the residence.

Eger, like the NCH, also maintains the importance of interior and exterior environment for health. And like the NCH, they continue to look to the future, with plans to renovate and create new systems of health services for older adults.

A Norwegian legacy
What a wonderful legacy our Norwegian ancestors have given to the city of New York in the form of the Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center and Eger Home and Rehabilitation Center. Both have been serving our elders for over a hundred years, and today their core missions continue to expand to treat the entire human being inside and out, through all stages of need.

This article originally appeared in the March 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Victoria Hofmo

Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.