Shirley Lieberman is an active 92-year-old who came to Daughters of Israel rehabilitation facility in West Orange in May 2011 following a hospitalization due to pneumonia that resulted in thoracic surgery. To exacerbate matters, Lieberman was in a weakened state due to the recent passing of her husband, Lester. Lieberman and her husband were active members and major philanthropists in the MetroWest Jewish community. Lester Lieberman served as a past president of Daughters of Israel, while both served as chair of Israel Bonds in New Jersey, among many other philanthropic initiatives.
In addition to her philanthropic ties to Daughters of Israel, Lieberman opted to undergo rehab at Daughters because of its new state-of-the-art gym boasting a transfer training car, Nautilus Next Generation equipment, and Wii sports therapy, as well as recovery suites with luxury amenities.
Lieberman’s prolonged hospitalization, coupled with the loss of her husband, led to physical deconditioning with severe balance and ambulatory impairments, as well as emotional exhaustion. When Lieberman arrived at Daughters, she was extremely weak and couldn’t perform certain Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) herself, such as dressing and getting in and out of bed.
With the help of a team of caregivers at Daughters, which included physical therapist Yvonne Bankole, occupational therapist Ellen Dobson, and certified nurse’s aide Diana Simmons, Lieberman regained the strength, confidence, and willpower to heal and move forward with her life.
“The rehab at Daughters was wonderful and helped me to walk again. It was the best. They bent backwards to give me the best care,” remarked Lieberman.
Lieberman’s recovery began with an exercise regimen in Daughter’s rehab gym, which included use of the Nautilus Next Generation equipment. DOI is the only facility in the northeastern United States to offer this equipment to a geriatric population, enabling clients to work out in half-pound increments and offering ease of entry and exit. Lieberman was also able to make use of the transfer training car that enabled her to practice getting in and out of a car, as well as testing her reaction time.
Beyond her physical recovery, Lieberman embarked on a path to emotional recovery. Bankole, who became close with Lieberman, remarked, “When Shirley sent a message to me that she was not up to it or would come to therapy later, I showed up in her room and explained to her that she wouldn’t get better staying in bed. She also knew that I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I knew she just needed the encouragement and willpower to move on. And my determination worked!”
According to Dobson, a key component of Lieberman’s recovery was getting her back into a structured routine. “Occupational therapy incorporates many different aspects, and we must work with our clients to provide a framework of support for the specific environment to which they are returning. This includes creating new routines and defining new goals.”
Fast forward to Daughters’ first rehab reunion on Sept. 21, 2011, in honor of National Rehabilitation Awareness Week. Bankole said, “I couldn’t believe it. Shirley floored me the way she walked in through that door. Not only did she drive here herself, but she strutted through the door without any assistance, and she was wearing sandals!”