Jewish Care suspended visitors to its ten care homes before lockdown began, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst the primary need for care home staff was to care for and protect residents, at the same time it was also vital to ensure that relatives could stay connected to their loved ones, and that care home activities provided by entertainers, therapeutic practitioners and volunteers, could take place online for the continued wellbeing of residents.
Redeployed staff from Jewish Care’s central offices are assisting carers across Jewish Care homes, to set up calls on new iPads that the organisation has purchased since the outbreak. This is helping to keep residents, their relatives and families digitally connected with one another through Skype and Face Time, to prevent a sense of isolation, whilst they are unable to have visits to the homes.
As well as video and telephone calls, residents are also staying in touch with volunteers. Isabel Fontes, social coordinator at Sidney Corob House, set up a Skype call for one resident, Eveline, with her family, friends, and young volunteers who would usually visit. Eveline said, “I felt good to see Kate, Ella and Fiona. I haven’t seen them for a while. I’m looking forward to seeing them again and pleased that Isabel made this opportunity.”
Natasha Carson, Care Manager at Jewish Care’s Hyman Fine House in Brighton, says, “It is heartwarming to help people get in touch with brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, and there is one advantage in that sometimes, where relatives live on the other side of the world, residents may not have seen them for years.“
Keeping in step with online relative calls, social activity coordinators introduced virtual online entertainment activities, incorporating social distancing to fit the new circumstances.
Helen Preddy, Jewish Care’s Creative Arts Development Coordinator says, “Seeing familiar faces and being able to continue to participate in uplifting and meaningful activities makes a huge difference to the wellbeing of staff and residents. It is important that, wherever possible, we keep connected to the people and things that bring us joy and a sense of community. The teams in our care homes are providing an incredible service in the most challenging circumstances.”
At Jewish Care’s Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet, volunteers lead online reminiscence sessions and give virtual concerts. Participatory artists run weekly therapeutic music sessions virtually, with residents participating with musical instruments or singing along whilst entertainers perform live on Skype.
Malcolm Marks, a resident at Jewish Care’s Lady Sarah Cohen House, who attended the virtual singing session, says, “It was very good. I joined in and sang along to Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, which was released in 1971- that’s when I met my wife. We also sang along to Tie a Yellow Ribbon, which was released in 1973, 47 years ago.”
At Sidney Corob House for people with mental health needs, social co-ordinators Sheree Charalampous and Isabel, work together to ensure residents have continuity in their activities, relationships and connections to support their wellbeing.
Sheree, says, “I’m so pleased we can keep on enjoying the regular entertainers and the yoga practitioner who is running group and one-to-one classes. The resident’s choir, which is now being led virtually, is still going strong and our art volunteers who normally come into the home are still running the art session virtually on a Monday. We’re using the new Jewish Care Keeping Active online activity portal too, which contains quizzes, activities and ideas that can be printed off. It’s all really helping to keep the spirits of the residents up, which is vital to their sense of wellbeing.”