Making Aliyah and retiring in Israel during the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis.
If you are a retiree and considering making Aliyah, planning on bringing your parents or you wish to make the move to a secure living environment, you’ve probably been asking yourself – “What about elder care in Israel during Covid?”
Beth Protea is a retirement facility in Herzlia with a distinctly Anglo flavour. Lyn Bach – Manager of Cultural Activities & Media at Beth Protea tells us how they are handling it.
It is hard to believe how the year 2020 commenced. All those books we had read and all those movies we had seen that seemed so far-fetched, suddenly became a frightening reality.
Where does one begin to explain how life carried on within the confines of our very special facility Beth Protea – home to approximately 150 senior citizens. Our motto has always been to ensure that our residents live their lives in total dignity and receive exactly the type of care we would give to our own parents. With this in mind, we tackled the Covid challenges facing a very threatened age group.
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It became obvious very early on that we would have to close our doors to any outsiders, including family members, lecturers, musicians etc. Suggestions by other facilities similar to ours was to simply ensure the residents remain isolated in their own apartments and that all their needs would be taken care of that way. However, isolation causes all sorts of other issues and we really did not feel that this was the best solution for our residents’ emotional well-being.
If Covid taught us anything, it is the ability to think out of the box and this is exactly what we did. To ensure the safety and health of the residents we divided the building into 2 areas – those for residents and those for staff and the two did not mix. We appointed a small, limited number of staff who had physical access to the residents. In addition, we were blessed with a large number of Filipino caregivers who became our angels of mercy, and as they too were forbidden to leave the premises, they became our link to the residents. Whether it was delivering their meals, collecting and delivering their laundry or taking their garbage for disposal, they were there. We could never have managed without them. The up-side of this arrangement meant that the residents had freedom to move around the building and were not isolated alone in their apartments.
Now came the challenge of how to ensure continued cultural entertainment when no-one was allowed into the building. We approached various lecturers and requested them to prepare recorded lectures. Most were extremely obliging as they began the difficult road of learning a whole new way of presenting their material. Zoom had become really popular, but we felt Zoom lectures would not provide the residents with human interaction and would simply provide entertainment, but alone in front of their computers or televisions. This was not a solution. Instead, we began screening recorded lectures for small numbers of residents at a time in our synagogue. Maximum permitted at the time by the Ministry of Health was 10 which meant we would repeat the same screened lecture several times a day to ensure maximum number of viewers.
In addition, we did the same thing with movies and recordings of live concerts. Our art department prepared kits for residents to continue art projects, but without the physical presence of the art teacher during the class.
Our residents proved to be real “troopers” and despite the difficulties of not seeing their family and friends, they at least were part of a vibrant community and had mental stimulation every day to keep them busy. It worked!!!!
The real angels in this story are the incredible staff we have who went above and beyond their expected roles. The pressures were enormous. The challenges even greater. The pandemic was something so new and frightening and everyone found themselves in unfamiliar territory.
Talk and rumours were everywhere about the miracle of the expected vaccine and Beth Protea was amongst the first of the retirement facilities to receive the vaccine. What a day this was!!! We decided to make it into a true “happening” with a photo booth to record the momentous vaccine. Delectable treats, small gifts, lovely music all contributed to a hopeful future now that the vaccine had arrived. The building was buzzing with excitement. Soon after that, vaccine number 2 was received and slowly, slowly life as we had once known it, began to return to some sort of normal.
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Just as we began to feel the mist finally lifting, rockets were being fired over Israel and we had to deal with another kind of lock-down. The safety and well-being of our residents being our prime concern. Staff rallied around during sirens to help direct residents from their apartments into safe areas in the building and luckily no damage occurred in the Herzlia area. But…………. A war situation is disconcerting for everyone and again the residents proved their resilience. They were a true inspiration to us all.
Sadly, reality raised its head once again as a new variant of Covid was discovered and the numbers of infected people in Israel was on the rise. However, our residents continue to prove their ability to adapt to change. We have had to re-instate some restrictions according to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines, but luckily, we have not had to close the building again like we did initially.
We all chose to see the cup as half full and have realized that we are going to have to learn to live with Covid as it appears it is not going anywhere in a hurry. So, for the time being, life continues. Days and evenings are full of activities. We have even managed an outing to the North with the residents and whenever possible, provide our shuttle service to the beach, a nearby mall or the city centre. Residents are seeing family and friends and in a nutshell – be grateful, it could be so much worse…….