Keeping families connected
The very first Ontario lockdown was on March 14, 2020. Visitors were barred from entering Hillel Lodge. Residents were cohorted, restricted to their own neighbourhoods. There was so much uncertainty over how the virus was transmitted. As the pandemic unfolded families were faced with barriers that prevented them from being with their loved ones.
When the recreation team created the Staying in Touch Program at the Bess and Moe Greenberg Family Hillel Lodge, little did they know how important the program would become during the pandemic.
This program has allowed residents to stay in touch with family members through the use of technology – namely iPads. Before COVID, there were occasional virtual visits between family members and residents. Usually, it would involve a visit with a family member who lived in a different part of the country.
The Staying in Touch Program was the only way in which the resident’s and their loved ones could stay connected. The team’s objective serves to minimize isolation as much as possible as this is crucial for the resident’s emotional and physical well-being. To launch the program, a schedule was developed, and the reception staff diligently started booking appointments. With a limited number of older modeled iPads, the recreation team wanted to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to connect with family. In addition to the virtual visits, families could partake in a window or a garden or a café visit. As programs increased in popularity, so did the need for more staff and devices. These visits help reduce the impact of social isolation and lift the spirits of the residents.
“It was amazing we were able to connect so many people and it was heartwarming to see residents connect with their loved ones” says Marilyn Adler, Recreation Program and Volunteer Manager.
The Recreation team excitingly hosted birthday parties for two residents who turned 100. They connected residents with family members and friends who lived as far away as Thailand, South Africa, California, and Hawaii. On Mother’s Day and Fathers Day, family members were able to celebrate virtually with their loved ones in the Lodge.
This program also allows resident to stay in touch with members of the community at-large. An example is the Art Therapy Program which has been able to continue its important work thanks to the iPads. Residents can use an iPad to participate in an art session.
The Lodge was also fortunate to receive a donation of three 65-inch TVs that were placed in different neighbourhoods in the home. This enabled the recreation team to connect the residents to the larger community through Zoom. The programs that are offered and led by dedicated volunteers are singalongs, birthday celebrations and Oneg Shabbats. Community involvement with the Lodge also comes from Rabbi programs, student programs from The Ottawa Jewish Community School, The Ganon Preschool, university student placement programs and Chanukah Candle Lighting with the families of residents.
A huge thank you to the Auxiliary of Hillel Lodge for their support. As a result of the tremendous success of their fundraising campaign, the Lodge was able to hire two additional staff to help run programs. Thank you to the Hillel Lodge Long Term Care Foundation for supporting this program through some of the proceeds from their Biking for Bubbies fundraiser.
Due to the success of the Staying in Touch Program the recreation team expect that it will remain popular even after lockdown measures are eased.