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Bagels & Bytes for August 5th, 2005
August 5th, 2005
We shared a bagel with Milwaukee mensch Bobbi Caraway, nurse, wellness advisor and dedicated Chai Point volunteer.
As part of her work teaching wellness classes at the Chai Point Senior Living Apartment Complex, Bobbi Caraway introduces residents to practical health strategies.
I started a knitting group because its been proven that knitting produces the same brain waves as meditation, she said.
When the group first met in Chai Points library, Caraway said, Jenny, an Alzheimers patient with a full-time caregiver wandered in. She picked up a pair of knitting needles and started knitting. Her caregiver started to cry and said she had never had any idea that Jenny knew how to knit.
With obvious joy and pride that she had touched Jenny and her caregiver, Caraway was nevertheless modest about her weekly Wednesday wellness classes.
I try to keep the level high and I learn a lot, she said.
She uses an interactive format, which allows her students the opportunity to ask about their concerns, while also offering them a variety of strategic topics, including yoga and tai chi.
Caraway has a loyal following among Chai Point residents. But she doesnt announce the topic ahead of time, she said with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. She doesnt want anyone to stay away just because they may not think a particular subject interests them.
Caraway has worked at Chai Point and the Jewish Home and Care Center as a nurse, in one capacity or another, since entering a registered nursing program at Cardinal Stritch University in the early 1980s.
Caraway already had three daughters and one son when she entered nursing school. She chose Cardinal Stritchs program, she said, because it was the only one that placed students in a clinical program from the very beginning of the first semester. Her first placement was at the Jewish Home and she never left.
I love the Jewish Home and I love Nita Corré, Caraway said. And I think it was kind of a mutual feeling, she added.
It definitely is, according to Corré, longtime former president of the Jewish Home and Care Center and current president of the JHCC Foundation. She told The Chronicle that when she first saw Caraway at the home, Caraway had her arm around a resident and Corré immediately recognized what a warm special person she is. I didnt want to let her go, Corré said.
Caraway worked as a floor nurse until she had back surgery in 1993. After that, Corré created a new position for her as a wellness nurse/educator with weekly office hours.
In that capacity Caraway developed a wellness program designed to empower the residents by providing information and guidance in maintaining and improving their health.
And though she is no longer on staff at the home or Chai Point, she still devotes her time and energy to its residents.
And she is surely appreciated. Whenever she is at Chai Point, she is surrounded by smiling residents. She is their friend as well as their mentor and teacher, Corré said.
Like her mother, Ruth Coleman, and her grandfather, Harry Soref, Caraway has passed the genes of giving on to her children, said Jeri Stroiman, marketing manager of Chai Point.
And the giving includes charitable contributions, time, expertise, passion and plenty of hugs.
So for Caraways 60th birthday, her children asked Corrés advice for ideas for a birthday tribute. She suggested that they combine Caraways passion for health care and love of the Chai Point residents by creating a health fair in her name.
The result is the Bobbi Caraway Health Fair, a series of three annual health fairs. The first was held on Wednesday, June 8, at the homes Rubenstein Pavilion.
The health extravaganza featured an array of booths about massage therapy, blood pressure, diabetes, Lifeline (an emergency medical alarm and call service for people who live alone), podiatry, rehabilitation and many other topics. In addition, an elder lawyer, a doctor and a pharmacist were available to answer questions.
Caraway attended the health fair with her mother. She was thrilled that my children recognized how important my work is to me, she said. Equally exciting is that caring for the elderly and the community, has passed on to the next generation in her family.
One thing I love about this work is that I make a difference. I make a difference in [the residents] lives, even if I am just going in and giving them a hug.
Caraway enjoyed a honey-wheat bagel with light veggie cream cheese and a small coffee at Brueggers on Silver Spring Dr.
By Andrea Waxman