As we look toward the end of 2015, it’s worthwhile to remember the history of nursing homes that have withstood more than a century of immeasurable changes.
Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore celebrated its 125th anniversary in November, and, full disclosure, I used to work at LifeBridge Health, its parent company. But even as an employee, I didn’t know the whole history of Levindale.
The Hebrew Friendly Inn was created in east Baltimore in 1890, specifically as a welcoming place for Jewish immigrants. It became the Hebrew Home for the Incurables, treating the sick and elderly, and in 1923 it moved to Belvedere Avenue and became an orphanage. (The facility still sits on Belvedere Avenue, across from Sinai Hospital, which makes me think the leadership decades ago could foresee care coordination).
Renamed Levindale for Louis H. Levin, the first executive director of the Associated Jewish Charities, it again became a home for the elderly and frail four years later.
Levindale today is still a part of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and has 330 beds. It was the first long-term care center in Maryland to open an adult day care center, and became the first registered Eden Alternative center in 2000. It adopted a Neighborhood Model of Care in 2007 and constructed a three-story addition in 2012.
To be clear, when I worked there from 2006 to 2011, I knew little to none of this — so thanks to long-time LifeBridge Health marketing guru Helene King for providing the history.
What resonated with me when Helene (who is literally one of the best healthcare PR people I’ve ever come across, and one of the nicest human beings) and I discussed this story is how Levindale has thrived while remaining true to its Jewish roots. It’s one of the only kosher nursing home facilities in Maryland. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal, imagine how difficult it would be to not only have to leave behind your home, but to move to a place where you worried about being able to eat.
I’m a Southern Jewish gal from an interfaith marriage, in an interfaith marriage, who will shortly be putting up a Christmas tree even as I pull out a menorah for Hanukkah. But despite the different backgrounds who trod through the halls of Levindale and LifeBridge Health, I always felt at home. It’s a community where people of all stripes can find their place, either as residents, patients or employees. Unlike some more famous Baltimore healthcare institutions where you are encouraged to bow before the genius of physicians, it’s a place where people come first. And as Levindale looks to its next 125 years, long may it prosper and continue to be a blessing to Baltimore.
Elizabeth Newman is Senior Editor at McKnight’s. Follow her @TigerELN.