Imagine what it would be like to lose your health, your spouse, your friends and your home. No one wants to grow old alone. Yet most people do. Isolation, loneliness and depression afflict most seniors in long-term care.
People sleeping are what you see when you walk into a nursing home. Why bother to remain awake when there is little to look forward to? To make matters worse, Jewish seniors in assisted living and nursing homes often feel abandoned by the Jewish community. They no longer have the opportunity to participate in Jewish holiday celebrations. As former members of a vibrant community, they feel isolated from communal life.
The Jewish pavilion is a lifeline for elderly Jews in long-term care. The Jewish Pavilion staff and volunteers go wherever someone in our community is in need. Pavilion staff and volunteers are there to look after loved ones, brighten someone’s day with a gift or lift someone’s spirits with a visit or holiday celebration. It’s in all 54 of the long-term care facilities where our culture is shared with residents of all faiths. It’s not a place on the map. It’s a place in the heart.
Recruiting, training and overseeing a network of volunteers takes time and money. The Pavilion has four paid program directors (north, south, east and west) who coordinate up to 100 volunteers in each of their areas. They plan and facilitate all of the activities in a dozen buildings in their areas including Shabbat meals, holiday festivities, musicales and intergenerational activities.
When someone calls the Pavilion, help is needed. Usually, there is a crisis such as mom just fell and now the family needs to determine whether she can continue to live by herself. The Pavilion’s new resource specialist is a trained social worker who offers a helping hand to families in transition, assisting seniors and their loved ones with all aspects of elder care.
To provide Shabbat, holiday programs and weekly visitation to seniors, and for staff and volunteers to meet their needs, requires financial support. In-kind donations must be sought to cover the expenses of more than 50 parties a month, which take place all over town. Of the agency budget, 94 percent goes toward the provision of programs so that our elders in every facility are visited, feel loved and are included in the Jewish community. Residents of all faiths are invited to share in these celebrations and acquire a taste for our culture. The care staff is trained by the Pavilion on Jewish foods and traditions.
No one wants to be forgotten. It is the mission of the Jewish Pavilion to enhance the lives of our elders in long-term care by strengthening their connection to the community. While the word “Pavilion” implies that the agency offers an edifice, instead it offers a promise – the promise to remember our Jewish elders as they transition to a long-term care setting. Your support is needed to ensure that our elders live their final days in contentment. Come out and participate in A Walk in the Park on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 9:30 a.m. at Cranes Roost. Enjoy a free breakfast, live entertainment including the Orlando Jazz Band, a health expo, lots of vendors and activities for children, including a bounce house, clowns and face-painting. Win prizes and receive giveaways. Visit jewishpavilion.org for more information.
Nancy Ludin is the executive director of the Jewish Pavilion.