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Residential Care
Lorraine Cooper

Read about the writer, Ellie David.

Living for Today at 95

Lorraine had her 95th birthday party on May 15, 2012, at Bailey-Boushay House.

She was delighted to be having another birthday and she was surprised to have something new to celebrate.

  Lorraine Cooper (on right) and daughter Nancy Cooper.
Lorraine Cooper (right) and daughter Nancy Cooper.

Severely disabled by Parkinson’s disease and arthritis, Lorraine hadn’t walked for a year before coming to Bailey-Boushay for end-of-life care.

Daily work in physical and occupational therapy changed that. Weeks before her birthday, Lorraine walked 20 steps on her own.

“Oh, I was happy, very happy,” she says.

Lorraine is glad to share stories of her long life. But she adds firmly: “I don’t live in my memories. I live for today.”

Even after residing nearly 60 years in Spokane, Wash., she says, “I think of myself as a Chicago person, born and bred.” She’s been a loyal Cubs baseball fan since high school. “Fridays at Wrigley Field, I got in free on Ladies Day.” Chicago is also where she started a 30-year career as a legal secretary.

She’s led an active life as a career woman, a wife, a mother, and a volunteer in the Jewish community. The death of Lorraine’s husband, Gerald, was a deep loss in 2011.

Seeing Lorraine thrive again at Bailey-Boushay is an unexpected gift to her daughter, Nancy Cooper.

“She’s had a resurgence of life,” Nancy says.

Lorraine holds her late husband’s prized cap. It now hangs on the wall of her room at Bailey-Boushay.

The physical improvements are tangible. “Besides doing physical therapy,” Nancy says, “she’s gained 10 pounds. She’s off most drugs and is very alert.”

Her mother’s quality of life is richer, too. “She doesn’t see herself as a little old lady. She’s talking politics again, reads Time magazine, and calls me about the news,” Nancy says. “She goes to Bingo and to music [sing-alongs]. She gets her nails done when the spa cart comes around.”

The respectful spiritual support at Bailey-Boushay has been especially meaningful to both mother and daughter.

Lorraine and Nancy needed a “minyan” (a group of 10 Jews) to commemorate the “yahrzeit” (the one-year anniversary) of Gerald Cooper’s death. But the morning fell in the middle of the work week, and Nancy had trouble finding enough available friends. The Bailey-Boushay community stepped up.

“The word went out to everyone Jewish,” Nancy says. “It was a powerful experience to see who made up my father’s minyan: nurses, a social worker, about four volunteers and one outpatient. We wouldn’t have been able to say the mourner’s ‘kaddish’ (prayer for the dead) without them.”

Lorraine likes her new community. “I’m very satisfied with Bailey-Boushay,” she says. “Everyone is very nice to me.”

Her daughter agrees. “I can’t think of a finer place. These people are my partners in taking care of Mommy.”

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