Nursing Home Reform


The People

Meet the staff, residents and family members featured in ALMOST HOME. Read updates from filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, who reconnected with everyone in January 2006 and reports on what's happened to the people featured in the film since he finished filming in February 2005.

The Staff

John George, Nursing Home Administrator

The baby-boomers need to really start to think about if they themselves never want to be in an institution the way it looks today then what can they do to change it…? 
—John George

John George is the young manager of the nursing home at Saint John’s On The Lake and the lead visionary of Saint John's culture change movement. The culture change movement advocates choice in every aspect of nursing home life—from mealtimes to personal care—and deeper relationships between staff and seniors.

Update: John George has grown more committed and confident in his quest to transform Saint John’s. Over the 2005 holiday season, he journeyed all over town to find Christmas ornaments that better reflect the ethnicity of the staff and is negotiating with state regulators to allow a paging system that would rid the nursing home of all beeps from bed, elevator and wheelchair alarms—less hospital and more home.
Close-up of John George, a Caucasian man in glasses, his boyish brown hair falls on his forehead, he is wearing a grey suit and red tie; he smiles at the camera.
Enchantra Cosey, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

I enjoy my job and I know I’m good at what I do. So to know you’re helping somebody, you’ve gotta feel good about that.
—Enchantra Cosey

Enchantra Cosey is a nine-year veteran of Saint John’s On The Lake. Like many of the certified nursing assistants (CNA’s) at Saint John’s, Cosey is poor, African American and a single mom. Despite the challenge of raising her daughter and two grandchildren and coping with the incarceration of her two teenage sons, Cosey finds time to attend night classes for her GED. Her dream is to become the director of nursing at Saint John’s.

Update: After dropping out, Enchantra has re-enrolled in the GED program with plans to graduate in the summer of 2006 and then begin nursing school.
Enchantra Cosey, an African American woman, with tightly braided pulled back hair, wearing gold hoop earrings and a gold chain; looks to the left of the camera, with a closed-mouth smile.

The Residents

Edie Herrold, 80, Independent Living Resident
Lloyd Herrold, 79, Nursing Home Resident

God knows I can’t take care of him; that’s impossible. And I’ve been told I can’t. He’s extremely confused and isn’t sure, you know, where he is or why.
—Edie Herrold, about her husband Lloyd

Once notables on Milwaukee's social circuit, Edie and Lloyd Herrold began living apart after Lloyd's Parkinson's disease forced him to move from their independent living residence to the Saint John’s nursing home. Edie struggles with feelings of guilt for not providing Lloyd’s care and her fear of losing her own health. In ALMOST HOME, Lloyd comes to terms with his separation from Edie and—unexpectedly—falls for one of his fellow nursing home residents, Mary Griffith.

Update: Edie moved from her independent living apartment to the assisted living floor due to increasingly frequent falls and was recently diagnosed with a form of cancer that her doctor says is 98 percent curable. Lloyd enjoyed Mary’s companionship until she passed away in January of 2006. While very sad, Lloyd retains his sense of humor and determination to press on. Lloyd and Edie have lunch together every Tuesday.
Edie Herrold, an older Caucasian woman with short light brown hair, wearing a grey-and-white plaid mock turtleneck, in mid-sentence.

Lloyd Herrold, an older Caucasian man in glasses with wispy, white hair and a white mustache, wearing a blue polo and jacket, looking directly at the camera with a kind, resolved, expression.
Arienne Balser, 75, Nursing Home Resident

Arienne Balser suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. In ALMOST HOME, Balser appears confused about her condition and suspects that the nursing assistants “resent” her for being “relatively educated,” while they are not. Toward the end of the film, she suffers a second stroke.

Update: Arienne rarely calls out in pain or anxiety any more, perhaps due to an increasing harmony with staff. Her granddaughters visit her every weekend.
Profile of Arienne Balser, an elderly Caucasian woman with short, white hair and glasses, looking to the right. She wears a blue knit sweater over a white shirt.
Bob Haig, 90, Independent Living Resident
Dolores Haig, 88, Nursing Home Resident

There are times tears come to my eyes when I think of the times we’ve had together. I’ve been married to her for over twenty-five years.
—Bob Haig, of his wife Dolores

Bob Haig is a healthy 90-year-old who still works in the photography studio where he has made portraits of nearly every famous Milwaukeean. In ALMOST HOME, he struggles to adjust to the “disappearance” of Dolores Haig, his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Angry at losing her and the lifestyle they once shared, he sometimes lashes out at the nursing home staff.

Update: Bob and Dolores continue to spend lots of time together, and Bob’s relationship with the staff is mostly harmonious these days. Though he was briefly hospitalized for a bout of dizziness, Bob is still devoted to his routine of work, civic engagement and church. He hosted the filmmakers for a presentation of ALMOST HOME to his Rotary Club chapter last February.
Bob Haig, an older Caucasian man in a grey polo shirt, his head bald on top with white hair on the sides and a white mustache, he looks directly at the camera with a slight smile.

Dolores Haig, an elderly Caucasian woman with dark eyebrows, her white hair is pulled back neat and tight, she wears a pink silk top, she is looking directly at the camera with no expression.
Ralph Nelson, 84, Independent Living Resident

I didn’t wanna be a burden ever on the kids. But when I was gonna make this move, my son said, ‘you gotta be careful. Are you sure you wanna be someplace where on the elevator all they talk about is their bowel movement?’ 
—Ralph Nelson

Ralph Nelson takes advantage of the woodworking studio at Saint John’s On The Lake, attends plays and cracks a lot of jokes. Afraid of becoming frail or sick, he said, "My greatest wish would be to wake up dead, that would be the neatest thing."

Update: Ralph was lucky that doctors discovered his lung cancer early enough to allow for successful surgery. In typical fashion, Ralph has already returned to his myriad activities.
Ralph Nelson, an elderly Caucasian man looking at the camera laughing broadly, wearing glasses and thinning white hair wearing an Oxford and a brown tie.

The Children

Edie Herrold, Jr.

My opinion is—doesn’t matter. If he has food on his clothes, so what? My brothers went out to buy him some new shirts, and I just said, “Well make sure you buy him food-colored shirts.”
—Edie Herrold, Jr., of her father, Lloyd Herrold

The daughter of Edie and Lloyd Herrold, Edie Herrold, Jr. finds herself caught between her parents in Milwaukee and her life 350 miles away in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her mother depends on her to handle their finances, while her dad depends on her to deliver the emotional support he no longer gets from his wife.

Update: Edie is balancing her music career ((she plays bass, composes music for her jazz quartet, and scores commercials), new work with a startup garden tools company and care for her parents. After the film she recognized fellow daughter/caregiver Amy Blumenthal in the parking lot and the two have subsequently formed a friendship.
Edie Herrold, Jr., a middle aged woman with curly brown shoulder-length hair tucked behind her left ear, she wears a blue T-shirt and looks slightly left, smiling.
Amy Blumenthal

It’s a very different relationship than what it used to be. You know…she looks to me to take care of her and help her make decisions and help her talk to doctors.  And that’s fine. But I want to provide for my children first.
—Amy Blumenthal, of her mother, Arienne Balser

Amy Blumenthal is the daughter of nursing home resident Arienne Balser, who suffered a stroke that deadened her left side and contorted her hand into a knot of flesh and bone. Part of the "sandwich" generation caring for parents and children, Amy is on a quest to balance her hectic life.

Update: As a result of the film, Amy has grown close to Lloyd Herrold, and discovered fellow daughter/caregiver Edie Herrold Jr., with whom she has formed a friendship. The circle has grown to include Helen Dixon, the daughter of Lloyd’s late companion, Mary Griffith.
Amy Blumenthal a middle aged woman with curly brown hair and glasses, looking to the left, wearing a pink turtleneck with a mint green sweater and pearl earrings.

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