Coming back    

Source: Jewish Home Family

There is no question that this has been a long year.  Living in “COVID time” has felt both compressed and endless at the same time.

We had days that disappeared with an overwhelming number of decisions and challenges, not to mention webinars and Zoom meetings and while the months seemed endless, years rather than weeks long.

Time in recent months has normalized, as life has normalized. We have learned a great deal (most of it the hard way) about managing this virus. We’ve learned how to keep folks well and how to heal those who are ill. While we have not been 100% successful, we have known far more success than failure. We are relieved and gratified to have the vast majority of our elders and staff vaccinated and to be at a point where our buildings are free from COVID. We are under no illusion that this means the pandemic is over and that life can go back to what it was pre-COVID but we definitely feel encouraged and that the light we’ve been seeking is closer than ever.

Over the couple of days that light has shone brightly. This past Friday we celebrated the holiday of Purim, a time for fun and festivity. All of us talked about remembering Purim 2020, that it was the last time we gathered with large groups of elders and staff for our traditional costume parade. Some of us wondered how this year would be anything other than a pale comparison. But that was not the case. On the nursing home campus, we held our annual decorating contest. Staff and elders did an amazing job decorating their units, their homes, with creative themes. Everyone on the unit was into the theme, with costumes and even some parts to play. One unit had a sports theme and as you walked down the hall, the first thing you encountered was the “concession stand,” staffed by an elder offering us (virtual) hot dogs, burgers, beverages and (real) boxes of Cracker Jacks! The Rehab team dressed as dominoes and they lined up and did a synchronized simulation of dominoes going over in a row and then coming back up again!

It wasn’t the costumes or the decorations that mattered. It was the laughter of elders and staff that echoed down the hallways in a way it has not for a year. It was the energy that radiated from every person, excited to be a part of something that we were doing just for fun. It’s been a long time since “just for fun” was, as they say, “a thing.”

Yesterday we continued with a Mexican-themed event. No, it was not Cinco de Mayo, it was just a way to celebrate our COVID-free status. Mexican lunch and dinner for the staff were a big hit. But the highlight was the installation, in a central area on each of the four units in the nursing home, of a piñata in the shape of the coronavirus! The piñata was, of course, filled with candy and staff and elders gathered to break it open. We had lively music playing and long poles to hit the piñata and hit it we did. Staff had fun taking a swing but elders had more fun. Men and women, standing and in wheelchairs, anyone who wanted a turn was able to take it. And when the piñata finally broke open and candy rained down, the laughter and the smiles were universal.

We know that COVID is still with us. We know that infection control remains a priority.  We know that the safety of our elders and staff is priority number one.  We work hard every day at enriching lives and engaging elders, despite all the restrictions we face. But coming together to laugh, coming together to share in infectious joy — those are the moments that truly fill me with hope for a brighter future.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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