‘Assisted Living’: Connections and transformations

The surprising ways in which people can connect is at the heart of the play “Assisted Living,” written by and starring the husband-and-wife team of Winnie Holzman (Tony nominee for the book of the Broadway musical “Wicked”) and Paul Dooley (co-star of the Robert Altman films “Popeye” and “A Wedding”). The two play all four characters in this work about a fading soap opera actor (Dooley), his girlfriend (Holzman), an adoring fan (Holzman) and her curmudgeonly father (Dooley). The vehicle is a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. 

As the story begins, Frank, the actor, is working on his lines and is being cued by girlfriend Emily, who notices a pile of his fan mail. She reads a particularly touching and worshipful letter from Heather, who pours out her heart, exposing her sense of worthlessness and insecurity. Emily is deeply affected by the fan’s pain and urges Frank to respond, but he is dismissive.

Frank has his own problems. He keeps complaining about getting less and less to do on the soap opera. 

“Having been on the show for 36 years,” Dooley explained, “Frank is very cynical. Now he’s finding that the younger, better-looking people coming in are taking over his turf, and he’s being relegated to the sidelines. 

“So, it’s kind of about how a man is declining in his view of himself or in his success.”

In the second scene, we meet Edgar, a crotchety, dissatisfied elderly man living in a senior facility. In comes Heather, his daughter, and it soon becomes obvious that Edgar denigrates her and favors his son. But Heather receives a very understanding reply to her fan letter and is so heartened by the response that she is moved to tell her father that she loves him. The two open up to each other, and Edgar admits that he also watched Frank’s soap opera. He and Heather begin to bond over a discussion of the program, which has gone off the air. 

The third and final scene has Frank, alone, out of work, and contemplating selling his New York apartment. Heather shows up at his door, a completely changed woman. The response to her fan letter has enhanced her self-image, motivated her to improve her appearance and given her confidence. She brings Frank a script she and her dad wrote about what might have happened to the characters had the program survived. At first, Frank is uncaring, but he slowly warms to her interest and her admiration.

Dooley said he and Holzman started the piece some 28 years ago, around the time they got married, then put it aside for a long time. “Every five or 10 years, we’d say, ‘Let’s finish that,’ but we never did. She’d be busy, or I’d be busy. She took about four years to write ‘Wicked,’ different drafts, and she did television shows, and I was off doing my things, and it just didn’t seem to have the window of opportunity until, some time in the last six months, we finished it up.”

As to the title, he said, “It’s not only that the father in the second scene is in an assisted living facility, but, as Winnie and I saw it, it’s the ways in which people assist other people in living.”

Holzman expanded: “You don’t live by yourself. We’re all connected and interconnected, but it’s the ways in which we do connect that are sometimes not what you’re expecting. And I think in the play help comes in ways that are unexpected, but they are almost like little blessings.”

Holzman points to the change in Frank when Heather shows up at his door, not asking for anything. “She brings him something that she wrote, that she wanted him to see, and it lifts him up. It gives him something. … I’m not saying that it takes away all his problems, but she becomes a ray of light in his life at that moment. And it’s a person that he completely dismissed.” 

In Heather’s case, Holzman added, the response to her fan letter meant that somebody noticed her and took the time to say that she mattered. It was a catalyst for her total metamorphosis.

 “I believe in transformation. I believe people can change, but it just happens in very mysterious ways. It’s not always something that you can plan. It’s mystical, and that’s what we’re trying to show in the play”

Holzman, who is Jewish, says her work is influenced by her parents’ sense of social responsibility, a core value in Judaism. “They were very much into helping people achieve equality, in the spirit of tikkun olam, how can I be of service?” 

Holzman and Dooley have injected their script with a great deal of humor, especially in their sendup of soap operas. “My favorite thing is to entertain and have people laugh,” Holzman concluded, “but also feel like they’re touched, like their hearts are touched. If I had that, I would be very, very thrilled with that response.”

“Assisted Living” is at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, through May 12. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets or other information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to AssistedLivingThePlay.com

Longer life, programs, care make Jewish Home’s wait list daunting

As bombs dropped over Germany, aerial photographer Arthur Oxenberg would lean out of a B-17 Flying Fortress with his camera to snap a photograph. His photos were a way the U.S. Army Air Forces could tell whether bombs hit their targets.

Based in Italy, Oxenberg flew 62 combat missions with the 301st Bombardment Group, 419th Squadron, bombing factories and military installations in Germany, Hungary and Austria. Seventy years later, he still has the log that recorded those missions.

On Nov. 4, 1944, Oxenberg wrote, “I hope that today’s mission was the ‘rough’ one. I don’t like to think of having another one like it. It was one of those days. Everything happened. … Twice I passed out for short periods because of lack of oxygen.”

“His big fear was that he would die over some country where no one would know him,” said Jan Oxenberg, his daughter. “When he came back to the United States after his final mission, he literally bent down and kissed the ground.”

After the war, he made a name for himself starting several of his own businesses. But today, Oxenberg, who turns 90 on Sept. 2, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and requires 24-hour care.

Like many people his age, Oxenberg is seeking admittance to the only dedicated Jewish elderly assistance facility in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Jewish Home, in Reseda, is the largest multilevel senior living facility in the Western United States. But it is also the smallest Jewish senior living facility, based on Los Angeles’ per capita Jewish population, according to Jewish Home CEO and President Molly Forrest. The Jewish Home caters to the needs of more than 1,900 in-residence seniors each year, providing services that include independent living accommodations, residential care, skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitative care, acute psychiatric care, and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care.

Arthur Oxenberg as a photographer during World War II. Photo courtesy of Jan Oxenberg

Consequently, the Jewish Home has a wait list of up to two years. On any given day, there are about 400 people on the list, and only 100 to 200 of those are actually admitted each year, according to Forrest.

“Our promise to provide for the comprehensive needs of our residents means that current residents who require a change in the level of their care are the first in line for any newly available space at the Home—before new applicants,” she said. “While the Home does have a wait list, each person is considered on a case-by-case basis. We make accommodations when we can, but we can’t simply have one person move ahead of others on the wait list.”

Jan Oxenberg, a television writer, contacted the Jewish Home in February when she moved her father from Florida to Los Angeles, where two of his four children reside. Since then, Arthur Oxenberg has lived in private assisted living facilities and a VA-contracted nursing home.

“It is so painful to see him like this. He grabs his head and says, ‘Make me real again!’ ” Jan said. “The amazing thing is that he knows who we are. He is still very talkative, friendly and social.”

Because of his condition, Jan sought to admit her father to the Jewish Home’s Auerbach Geriatric Psychiatry Unit program. Like all other applicants, Oxenberg was faced with the daunting wait list.

“We try to be responsive, but it’s hard when we are 98 percent filled at all times,” Forrest said.

The first priority for new admissions is those in unsafe living conditions.

“Preference may also be given to those who can benefit from the Home’s unique programs and services, including survivors of traumatic life events such as the Holocaust, violent crime or elder abuse,” she said.

“In reviewing applications, we do take hardships into consideration. However, each person is an individual who is considered on his or her particular and unique basis. We do give preference to those who have served the Jewish Home and Jewish community, including employees, volunteers, rabbis and Jewish communal workers,” Forrest said. “Making a donation is never a condition of admission to the Jewish Home. In fact, the vast majority of our residents are financially needy.”

For dementia care with skilled nursing, someone can be on the wait list for six months to two years.

This lengthy wait list is partially because the average age of Jewish Home residents is more than seven years above the national average and the average length of stay is more than eight years, compared with two to three years in similar settings, according to Forrest.

“Because of the quality of our home, we like to say that we add life to years and years to life,” she said. “Our statistics are unlike any other programs. We ask people why they want to come here. Half of the applicants on the wait list say because of the quality of our medical services, and the other half say that they are lonely and want to make friends.”

Reasons like this are why the Oxenbergs and other families are drawn to the Jewish Home.

Jan Oxenberg said that it’s important for her father to be able to socialize, something she knows the Jewish Home will provide. And so, Jan, and hundreds of other families, endure the wait in hopes of securing a spot in one of the Jewish Home’s facilities.

“One of the great things about the Jewish Home is that they honor our people,” Jan said. “It is very important for him to be in a place where he can be around people and socialize.”

The emotional landmines of family caregiving

Most families squabble. After a short cooling-off period, relatives tend to resolve spats and go on with their individual lives. But there are situations that make it difficult to restore harmony. For example, when an elderly loved one breaks a hip, suffers from dementia, a stroke or other disabling illness, spouses and adult children can become unglued. The frailty and dependence of a loved one often ignites emotional landmines, stirs up old family issues and uncovers personality traits best left buried.

Sibling Rivalry

A common situation goes like this: Sis worries that increasing forgetfulness threatens her mother’s safety. Her brother, on the other hand, argues that a few Post-It note reminders placed around mom’s home will remedy any “senior moments” she may have.

Sis replies, “You haven’t seen the burnt pots and pans left unattended on the stove.”

He comes back with “You are overreacting.”

Both want the best for their mother, but their competitiveness gets in the way of their ability to execute a plan. Each one is trying to prove that they are the smartest, most reasonable and the supreme problem-solver. Sibling rivalry never dies.

The siblings’ time would be better spent asking their mother what she prefers. Does mom want to remain in her home in the face of growing difficulties? Most seniors do. An assessment by a professional geriatric care manager (who is not a relative) would lay the groundwork for a plan to keep mom safe in her own home or, if that’s not wise, help the family find a more suitable living arrangement. For an explanation of what a geriatric care manager does and the location of one near you, visit www.caremanager.org.

The Golden-Haired Child

A painful situation for the primary caregiver occurs when another close relative does little or nothing to help, but they are adored and praised by the senior anyway. This frequently triggers resentment in the mentally and physically exhausted primary caregiver.

Keeping uninvolved relatives in the loop about medical conditions, treatments and finances increases the likelihood of their involvement. At the very least, it prevents later complaints that “nobody told me” or “I’d have never agreed to that had I’d known.”

It’s infuriating when others don’t do their share, but ultimately you can’t force people to do anything they don’t want to do. In the long run, you are better off not spending time stewing, a practice that results in more anger, bitterness and family feuds.

Before throwing in the towel, get together a family conference where the topic for discussion is “sharing the caring.” Generally, people are more willing to participate when they can contribute in a way that’s comfortable for them. Not everyone is willing or able to do hands-on care. Some relatives might have the know-how to help with figuring out and managing health benefits or home repairs or be willing to accompany the elder to doctor appointments.

The Scrooge

The Scrooge is the family member who skimps on or neglects care. I recall a daughter who petitioned the court and was granted the conservatorship of her severely demented mother. The siblings welcomed the newfound kindness of their previously self-centered sister. Then the daughter moved their mother to an unlicensed, below-standard “cheap” facility far away from other family members. Soon, she began to mishandle her mother’s finances.

Most Scrooges simply want to preserve their inheritance or “get it early.”

If the older woman (when she was still well) had executed a living will or designated an ethical person to be her durable power of attorney for health care and for financial decisions, the Scrooge may never have been able to take over her mother’s care for her own gain.

These documents can be downloaded and are explained online at www.caringinfo.org.

The Long-Distance Denier

Some relatives are well-meaning, but distance is an obstacle. In this group there are also a large number of deniers who insist that nothing is wrong with mom or pop. Almost as bad are the bossy long-distance relatives who issue inappropriate and unsolicited “advice.”

Two solutions come to mind. First, discover what the distant person is willing to do from their own home. For example, research medications, health conditions, locate resources online, or provide emotional support via telephone or even financial support. Second, invite a denier to eldersit so the caregiver can take a break. A few days of duty may open their eyes to the “true picture.”

The Sandwiched Caregiver

Some caregivers are squeezed between caring for an elderly parent and parenting a teenager. Every hour spent on eldercare represents an hour unavailable for children. The bane of the sandwiched caregiver is guilt. No matter how much they have done, they always feel they could have done more. Even worse is the guilt experienced when their frustration and exhaustion result in angry words directed at their spouse, teenager or even the older family member.

One solution is to include the entire family in eldercare. For instance, children usually love assisting with grandpa’s exercise. They can count the repetitions and cheer grandpa on. Teenage girls may get a kick out of doing grandma’s nails. Such activities lighten the caregiving load and help young people develop compassion.

Joining a support group is an ideal way to cope. To find a support group near you, start with the Alzheimer’s Association at (800) 272-3900 or www.alz.org.

The Overburdened

The overburdened are easily identified because the people they are caring for look better than they do. Overburdened caregivers are more inclined to have depressive illness, flare-ups of their own medical conditions and a higher mortality rate than those who are not caregivers.

The good news is that caregivers who choose their battles wisely, recognize that eldercare does not have to be perfect, and tend to their own health needs are able to provide better and longer care of their loved ones. While eldercare is often a thankless job, many caregivers report tremendous satisfaction when they reflect on the care they provided during the last years or months of their loved one’s life.

The Super Caregiver

The classic “Super Caregiver” is an adult child or spouse who refuses offers of help, saying, “No one can do it better than I can.”

Research and references are the key to selecting assisted living facility

Many potential residents pin their hopes on assisted living and its menu of services as a means to keep them independent for as long as possible. Seniors who require help and support in managing their daily activities, but who don’t need medical oversight or intense supervision, are the best candidates for assisted living. They may select from a range of possible services, including meals, laundry, cleaning, bathing, dressing, toileting and other personal care, albeit for additional fees.

The following advice can help you find the right assisted-living facility to meet your individual needs and to empower you to make sure that what is required by law and promised by the assisted-living facility is, in fact, delivered.

Differences Between Facilities

It is said that if you’ve seen one assisted living facility, you’ve seen one assisted-living facility.

An assisted-living unit may be as grand as a small apartment with a tiny kitchen in a large complex or as modest as a shared room with little more than a bed and dresser for each resident. One can find an assisted-living facility housing 100 residents and providing onsite nursing care two blocks away from another facility that houses six residents and employs a staff with no health care expertise at all.

Such disparities exist because assisted-living law in most states is loosely regulated. In an atmosphere of looseness, many assisted-living owners are only inclined to provide high-quality care under pressure.

Locate the Place That’s Right for You

Matching an individual’s specific needs (physical, emotional and social) to an appropriate assisted-living setting is a tricky endeavor, because there are so many differences between facilities. There are no shortcuts to finding the most suitable facility, but the following tips have helped others in their search for the right place:

Gather Personal Recommendations

Seeking a referral from any of the following sources make for a good first step:

  • Friends, co-workers and acquaintances.
  • A social worker or geriatric care manager.
  • A physician who specializes in geriatrics.
  • Home health caregivers or hospice workers whose clients live in assisted-living facilities
  • A hospital discharge planner (be aware that their recommendations may not always be based on the patient’s best interests, because in many hospitals, discharge planners are pressured to get patients out the door as soon as possible, which may distort their advice.)

Take the Formal Tour

When your initial research narrows the candidates to a handful of facilities, it’s time for onsite visits. Above all, trust your senses and intuition. Does the assisted-living facility feel good, smell good and appear clean and bright? When you visit, remember to do the following:

  • Talk to facility employees. Questions can be addressed to the admissions coordinator or administrator, as well as employees more directly involved in resident care. Potential residents or family members should ask questions that matter to them, with as much specificity as possible. For example, the potential resident who has concerns about falling should ask about the amount of available hands-on assistance, as well as the facility’s fall prevention policies.

    The tone of the answers is as important as the content. It’s a bad sign if employees seem resistant or evasive when asked to consider a potential resident’s individual concerns.

  • Talk to residents and family members. Current residents and their family members and other visitors know a facility’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. Conversations with residents and their loved ones should take place without a staff member present. This is another opportunity to gauge a facility’s attitude. If the facility staff seems perfectly comfortable with private conversations between current and potential residents, the facility is more likely to be a good place to live.

Consider the Location

The best assisted-living facility in the world isn’t much good if it’s too far away for family and friends to drop by or too difficult to get to because of traffic patterns or lack of public transportation.

  • Older adults, whose friends and relatives visit frequently, tend to keep their spirits up and feel less lonely.
  • Family members who visit often tend to develop a relationship with various staff members, which benefits everyone, including relatives, staff members and residents.

Look Out for Yourself or Your Loved One

The following situations are common in assisted-living facilities. Asking the suggested questions will help you to determine whether the facility is the right one to meet you or your loved one’s current and future needs:

  • It’s unclear how much control residents have over their day-to-day life in the facility. Are there meal choices? Is there a range of daily activities to choose from? Are residents free to wake up and go to bed whenever they wish? Are there any restrictions on a resident’s right to see visitors (e.g., time and place)? Are rooms private or shared? Once a resident is settled in, does the room become permanent, or can he or she be forced to move to a different room?
  • A staff member tells you that residents’ care is planned, but you don’t know what that means. What kind of care and level of supervision is provided? Is the facility licensed? (Most states require a license, which means that specific regulations set the minimal standard of care that must be provided.)
  • You are uncertain of the cost. What exactly is included? How many meals? Are the bedrooms and bathrooms cleaned or just the community areas? How often? Does the cost vary with the amount of care required by the resident? If so, how? How frequently has the cost been increased in the past?

    (Be aware that Medicare doesn’t pay for assisted-living arrangements. Most tenants pay out of their own pockets. Even when long-term-care insurance policies pay, they may allow only a specified amount of money to cover assisted living, after which no insurance funds are left should nursing home care be necessary.)

  • You worry about whether or not there will be someone on duty if you or your loved one needs assistance. What is the ratio of direct-care staff to residents during the day? During the evening and overnight? How many staff members are on duty at night? What is the staff’s health care expertise? Are the services of a nurse available?
  • It is unclear how medication is administered. Who administers medication? How much training does that person have?

  • You worry that care needs may become too much for the facility to handle. What would happen if the resident got increasingly weaker and needed a two-person assist to get out of bed or required insulin injections for diabetes?

(Be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits a business from discriminating based on a person’s medical condition and requires a business to modify its procedures reasonably to accommodate a person with a disability.)

  • You don’t know whether your loved one’s safety is a priority. Are residents regularly checked on? How frequently during the day, in the evening and through the night are they checked? Does the facility have a sprinkler system to prevent fires?
  • You don’t know whether residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia-related symptoms receive special services. What procedures and policies does the facility follow for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementing illnesses? Does the facility have a system to prevent confused residents from wandering away?

Dr. Rachelle Zukerman is professor emeritus of social welfare at UCLA, a gerontologist and author of the book, “Eldercare for Dummies.” She can be reached at drrzuk@aol.com.

Who Will Care for the Caregivers?

About five years ago, Nina Dayan noticed that her husband’s moods began alternating between anger and depression. Then her husband started doing strange things: He would hide her keys, steal money from her purse and share his social security number with strangers on the phone.

Eventually, his Alzheimer’s disease was confirmed. The diagnosis explained her husband’s strange behavior, but it didn’t make things any easier for Dayan. She remained on constant guard to ensure he didn’t answer the phone, open the mail or touch the checkbook.

“I had to sleep with one eye open,” said Dayan, 77. “It was making me a nervous wreck.”

Although she was suffering from her own ailments, including back and knee problems, Dayan’s caregiving prevented her from seeking medical attention for her own ailments. Dayan’s actions illustrate the approach taken by most caregivers: Ironically, those who devote themselves to caring for others tend to neglect their own well-being.

“Caregivers take themselves out of the circle of care in order to focus on their loved one,” said Gary Barg, founder and editor-in-chief of Today’s Caregiver magazine. “We want to make sure our loved ones are getting the rest they need, but we never sleep. We want to make sure our loved ones get the care they need, but when’s the last time a caregiver ever went to a doctor?”

This topic and others will be explored at The Los Angeles Fearless Family Caregiver Conference in Carson on June 28, sponsored by Today’s Caregiver magazine along with the City of L.A. Department of Aging and the L.A. County Area Agency on Aging. Keynote speaker Barg said the conference will not only provide practical information for attendees, but help them overcome the sense of isolation so typical of caregivers.

Given the sheer number of caregivers in the United States, the issue of caregiver well-being presents a serious challenge. According to AARP, more than 44 million Americans provide unpaid care to friends and family. That number will continue to rise as the population ages. Currently, family caregivers provide about 80 percent of the assistance required by those who need help with daily activities such as bathing and dressing, taking medications and paying bills.

Caregivers span all ages, although statistically the average caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who is married and employed outside the home. Caregivers may tend to someone older, like a parent; close in age, such as a spouse; or younger, like a child. Sometimes, as in the case of the sandwich generation, they provide care to multiple generations simultaneously.

Whatever their particular situation, caregivers face a host of common challenges, including financial and legal issues, need for respite and lack of information about existing community resources such as counseling services, adult day care centers and home-health care agencies. In addition, they experience depression at twice the rate of the general population. (The rate jumps to six times for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s and other brain-related impairments.)

Barg said the gathering shows caregivers that “there are other people in the community going through what you’re going through. It’s important to be around others.”

Barg also urges caregivers to see their role as a job, even if it is a labor of love. This entails learning as much as possible, attending conferences and support groups and communicating with members of the patient’s health care team.

“The more you treat yourself as a professional and the more you care for yourself, the better job you can do for your loved one,” he said.

As for Nina Dayan, she found help at the Eichenbaum Health Center at the Freda Mohr Senior Service Center on Fairfax Boulevard. In addition to exercising there three times a week, Dayan attends lectures and programs and participates in a support group for people whose spouses have Alzheimer’s.

Eight months ago, Dayan placed her 85-year-old husband in an assisted living facility in Santa Monica.

“I took care of him until I couldn’t anymore, and had to take care of myself,” she said. She has since undergone cataract surgery on both eyes, and will have knee replacement surgery this month.

Dayan said her husband has adjusted to his new living arrangement and has made many friends. Now, he spends his day socializing instead of bickering with her. She still worries about his health and her own, as well as how long her finances will hold out. But her relief at finding an interim solution is apparent. As Dayan puts it, “I’m breathing again.”

The L.A. Fearless Family Caregiver Conference will take place on Tuesday, June 28, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at The Carson Center. 801 East Carson St., Carson. For more information or to register, call (800) 829-2734 or visit www.caregiver.com.

Caregiver Resources:

California Caregiver Resource Centers: www.cacrc.org/californiacrc

AARP: www.aarp.org

Family Caregiver Alliance: www.caregiver.org

Jewish Family Service: www.jfsla.org


Journey’s End

Lunda Hoyle Gill sat in her spare room at a Westwood assisted-living center, the last stop on her remarkable life journey.

The artist once traveled to the remotest parts of the globe, racing to paint indigenous peoples before they disappeared. But that was before cancer ravaged her gut and Parkinson’s disease crippled her fingers. Today, at 72, the artist can no longer paint. She can barely walk or hold a spoon.

In the final months of her life, the Cedars-Sinai Hospice Program has helped Gill to achieve a longtime ambition: a retrospective of her work, to open Sunday at USC Hillel.

Gill’s international travels began in 1974, when she read about Stone Age tribesmen in the Philippines and thought they would make inspiring subjects. Over the next decade, she traveled from Tonga to Tibet, cramming as much food and medicine as she could fit in a duffel bag, often backpacking alone into the bush.

"My vulnerability allowed me to reach the native people more deeply," she explained.

Gill breakfasted with Genghis Kahn’s 23rd descendant in Mongolia, had a gun pulled on her in the Aleutian islands and painted Eskimo whale-hunters while precariously perched on an iceberg. Once, 40 miles from Siberia, she was stranded for a week on a fog-bound island that she called "a spit of gravel in the ocean."

Even more dangerous was painting the tribal executioner of a headhunting clan, whose menacing portrait looms from a corner of Gill’s room. His face is hidden by a mask: "If I had given away his identity, I would have been killed," Gill said.

Gill, whose work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum and who has had three exhibits at the Smithsonian, traveled throughout China to paint the country’s 55 minority cultures in the early to mid-1980s. Several years later, she traveled to Israel to paint ethnic groups of the Jewish state. An Ethiopian Jewish women proved a difficult subject: "She’d gone to the beauty parlor, so I had to study museum photographs to get the traditional hairstyle just right," Gill recalled.

When Gill was in her 60’s, her travels came to an end. In 1997, the artist was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

Last year, she entered the Cedars-Sinai hospice with a final wish for a pictorial life review; hospice official Mary Hersh responded by mailing an urgent letter to some 15 museums and galleries.

USC Hillel program director Matt Davidson was one of those who replied. "It was an unbelievable chance to do a mitzvah for someone, so saying ‘yes’ was a no-brainer," he told The Journal.

In September, the Southwest Museum will also mount an exhibit of Gill’s work, though she is unsure she will live long enough to see it. "I didn’t think having any kind of exhibition was even close to possible while I was still alive," she said.

Sitting in her quiet room last week, Gill hoped she would feel well enough to attend her Hillel opening May 6. "I hope there will not be tears," she said. "But if they come, it’s fine."

For information about the Hillel show, call (213) 747-9135.