Maryann Bernstein departs Federation

Maryann Bernstein, standing, Right, at a JSSA lunch program

Returns to nursing home care, one of her ‘first loves’

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

With more than 20 years of service to the Federation — most as director of nursing for Covenant House — Maryann Bernstein will return to the nursing home field on Aug. 1 when she becomes administrator of Greenbriar Nursing Center in Eaton.

“One of my first loves always has been working in the nursing home and with seniors,” Maryann said. Most recently, she served as administrator of Covenant House and facilitated the Federation’s transition out of the nursing home field and its expansion of home-based senior services, as director of the Dayton Area Jewish Senior Service Agency.

Maryann said that since she took over as head of JSSA, she’s received several job offers from nursing homes.

“This one is a nice facility,” she said of Greenbriar. “I went and checked it out and I think it will be a good fit for me.”

Her last day with the Federation is July 29. She’ll dive into her new job with a few days of orientation and then will take off for her son Joshua’s wedding on Aug. 7.

“I know that JSSA is in really good shape and for me, that’s really important,” she said. “There’s a lot of good staff here to carry on: Janice Kohn and our new social worker, Mary Ann Hemmert, and of course, Hyla Weiskind, who has been doing senior outreach for years.”

“Maryann has done an incredible job leading our restructured JSSA,” said Federation Executive Vice President Larry Skolnick. ”Though I am genuinely sad to see Maryann go, I am happy for her as she embarks on this exciting new endeavor.”

A native New Yorker, Maryann arrived in Dayton with her husband, Dr. Jack Bernstein, when he was named chief of infectious diseases for Dayton’s VA Medical Center.

She began her work at Covenant House in 1987 as a weekend relief nurse.

“I was just getting back into the workforce while the kids were young.”

In the early 1990s, when she received her promotion to director of nursing, her first great challenge was to advocate for freeing residents of their restraints when they slept, the norm in many resident care facilities. Nursing homes at that time feared that if residents were untied, they would fall.

“When I came in, there would be residents who were tied into their bed with a vest restraint, and also with hand restraints attached to the side rails,” she recalled. “Little by little — I had done a lot of research and attended seminars — I just started trying one patient at a time, watching them night to night to see what happened. And I remember to this day the first gentleman that I tried it with and it was successful. I was most proud of untying the elderly.”

During her time as director of nursing and administrator of Covenant House, the facility achieved several perfect state inspections.

“I want to say there must have been at least five or six,” she said. “But even if they weren’t always perfect, we never had any severe deficiencies. And every day was survey day as far as I was concerned.”

Janice Kohn, who worked with Maryann since Maryann’s arrival at Covenant House, called her a “wonderful beacon.”

“People always looked to her as a resource,” Janice said. “She’s really given a lot of herself over the years. I can remember at Covenant House, there was a resident and we celebrated her 104th birthday with a 1950s party. Maryann came in her poodle skirt and saddles. She always was willing to join in and wanted to be with the residents and meet with their families.”

“We would dress up for the residents,” Maryann said. “Since they wore pajamas, I had a pajama day so they could see us in our PJs.”

“A fantastic lady,” said Bert Lieberman, who chaired Covenant House for eight years. “Besides being a great nurse, she’s such a wonderful person.”

Bert’s daughter, Marilyn Klaben, served as JSSA chair when Maryann became its director and Covenant House was in process of being leased to Four Seasons.

“Maryann’s love and concern for residents’ needs always came first,” Marilyn said. “I’ll never forget her hands-on approach.”

“It always has been a privilege to work with the seniors in our community,” Maryann said. “And even if we were not always perfect in everything we did, we would try.”

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