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A Pesach for residents only

  • elderly-in-isolaton-photo-illustration
Being kept apart from your children and grandchildren might seem like punishment rather than a way to protect an elderly person. While most of the elderly at Jewish old age homes and assisted living facilities understand the Chevrah Kadisha’s introduction of stringent restrictions that prevent visits from family and friends, it isn’t easy.
by STEVEN GRUZD | Apr 02, 2020

Okey Fine, who recently moved into Sandringham Gardens due to ill health, is frustrated at losing his independence and being distanced from his family. “It’s a bit boring,” he says, while appreciating the importance of the restrictions. “We’re locked down here, with nothing much to do. Thank goodness I have a TV. There’s no sport now, so I choose movies. But I must say that the nurses have been very nice, and they make the beds, clean the rooms, and ensure we have our medicine.”

Saul Tomson, group chief executive of the Chev, understands his difficulties, but says, “Aged facilities all over the world have been closing their doors to family members and visitors – in the UK, Israel, and many other places. We know that the elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk from this virus, and we needed to act quickly and do everything we could to protect our most vulnerable residents. We took strong, decisive, early action on 13 March to protect those people in our care. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one. These are dangerous times for our elderly, and we need to suspend individual niceties to protect communal necessities.”

Sarah Sobel acknowledges the bigger picture. “We are coping well because the Chevrah Kadisha is going out of its way to accommodate us in every way. It’s for our own benefit. We can’t take part in all the big activities we did before. But we are doing what we can – cards, puzzles, handwork, knitting, reading, and talking.”

Says Betty Rubin “I appreciate the garden, and I appreciate what is done for us. Most people are co-operative, and we are lucky to be here.”

“Some people here are anxious and agitated,” says Fine “They’re moaning, and it’s all we talk about at meals. It’s not nice that no-one can come see us, especially family. I do feel isolated and lonely. I have a car, but I can’t go anywhere. The days seem extremely long. But I’m grateful when my kids and friends phone.”

Tomson says the residents aren’t isolated – except from family and friends. “They are surrounded by people. They have each other, our care givers, social workers, doctors, and other staff. These are all people they know and trust. There is also a full programme of activities in smaller groups.

“People who are negative will be negative. People who are positive will remain positive,” Sobel says. “Our families overseas are grateful for what’s being done. I have no complaints. Normally now we would be having tea, and today we are still having tea. We haven’t changed our way of life.”

Tomson asserts that the residents are coping well. “They watch the news on TV, and read newspapers,” he said. “Many have expressed gratitude to the Chev for the strong and timely measures taken to protect them. The community, too, has been supportive and understanding of the situation. Nobody wants to see our aged population exposed to danger.

“We understand how difficult it can be for everyone when family and friends are unable to visit,” he says. The Chev has established an e-visiting system via Skype and WhatsApp in which families can be in touch with their loved ones via safe digital communication. There is also a system in place in which volunteers shop for and talk to residents, as well as arrangements for family to drop off care packages at the front gate.

Pesach – one of the most family-oriented festivals – will be different this year. “Usually we host enormous sedorim (said to be the biggest on the continent) and welcome all people who have nowhere to go,” said the Chev’s Tzivia Grauman. “This year, we can’t do that in our facilities, so we are looking at alternatives. Our residents will enjoy a wonderful Pesach together, not going out and not having family visiting.”

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