When the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home closed its doors to the public on March 8, 2020, no one could have anticipated how long it would be before Residents could be physically reunited with their families.
It was with great care and emotion that visitations for RBJH Resident family members were able to resume on March 24, 2021.
Visitors will be screened prior to entry and are asked to please be respectful, patient and compliant with all RBJH regulations and protocols in order to ensure the safety of all staff and Residents.
Everyone entering will have their temperatures taken and will be required to answer a series of screening questions. All ‘social visits’ will take place in common areas and will be supervised to ensure adherence to protocols. Visitors will be provided with fresh masks upon entering the RBJH. Residents and visitors will be required to sanitize hands before visiting.
While all protocols are subject to change, Chris Ulven, RBJH Executive Director, explains what to expect:“We are allowing two family members for indoor/outdoor ‘social visits’ at one time. ‘Social visits’ are scheduled every 30 minutes with a 20 minute visit and time to sanitize between visits. Each Resident may have up to three ‘social visits’ per week in order to allow all Residents an equal opportunity to receive visitors.”
Ulven continues. “This past year has been unimaginably hard on all of us, but none more so than on our Residents. While we have definitely adapted to and appreciate the use of technology for remote visits, nothing can compare to being face-to-face with loved ones. While we were able to have limited indoor visitation for a short time this past fall, we were unable to continue once the positivity rate in Douglas County rose above 10%.”
“Once Douglas County fell below 10% for two consecutive weeks, we began allowing limited visits following Douglas County Health Department guidance in late February,” explains Ulven. “CMS issued revised guidance on March 10 that was effective immediately to allow limited physical contact for any Resident that was two weeks past receiving their final dose of vaccine.”
According to Ulven, the majority of RBJH Residents and staff received the Pfizer vaccine in two doses. “We had three sessions spread out every three weeks beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The second week in March, we had six newer Residents receive their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Our vendor will be back every four weeks to provide vaccine to Residents who need it.”
He also said: “These vaccinations have made it possible for Residents to get hugs from their family members for the first time in over a year. To be able to see those first hugs take place was very special. Pure joy and pure love. Human contact is priceless and very much needed by everyone. Going a year without a hug; it is inhumane, at best. To say that my staff and I are overjoyed for our Residents and their families is an understatement,” Ulven said.
Within the parameters of the newly issued guidance and underscoring the importance of physical touch, visitors and residents are now allowed to hug at the beginning and end of each visit, with appropriate physical distancing in between. Sanitizing will be required before and after each physical contact.
Ulven gives enormous credit and much respect to the staff of the RBJH. “Our staff really stepped up this past year. In addition to their normal duties, they covered a wide array of roles usually filled by family, friends and dedicated volunteers. They have had to be very nimble in adjusting to the frequent changes in guidelines in regards to what can and cannot occur at the Blumkin Home. Nobody likes to be the ‘bad guy’ and say ‘no’ to something that might have been allowed a week earlier, but we have to be at times to make sure we are following the rules to the best of our ability. At the end of the day, we are doing our best to keep our Residents safe, healthy and happy.”
For Maggie Conti, RBJH Activities Director, the inability to have friends and family in the building was especially challenging and she expresses gratitude to the RBJH staff members for going above and beyond in helping to find fun ways to engage Residents and keep spirits high. “From themed patio parties, special luncheons, innovative activities, connecting to Synagogues and community leaders, and car parades to just making time to sit and talk or play games with Residents... the list just goes on. I could not have asked for a more caring and dedicated staff.”
It has also been important to RBJH leadership to boost the morale of the staff as much as possible. “We asked a lot of our staff and understand that they also faced their own personal family challenges because of the pandemic,” explains Conti. “From changes to routines in their own personal lives to minimize risk to our Residents to daily COVID testing at one point before shifts... no one wanted to take any chance of bringing the virus to work and we worked together with that common goal.”
The leadership at the RBJH has made conscious efforts to show appreciation and lend extra support to staff though catered meals, theme days like wacky Wednesdays and other morale boosters.
Conti also expressed appreciation to the community, individuals and the many organizations and who have reached out in kindness to help in any way they could - from organizing everything from donation drop offs of materials and pen pals letters, to Zoom programs and the recording of Shabbat songs. She adds, “as always, L.O.V.E. has been a wonderful resource in helping to bring cheer to holidays with videos, decorations and gifts, and new Resident welcome bags to ease transitions spent in quarantine.
“I know L.O.V.E. is also planning a fabulous community event, celebrating 50 years in 2022. While it’s challenging to plan without knowing when it will happen, when we are finally able to fully open our doors,we will rejoice!” Besides social visits, the Home is also offering two additional family visitation options.
‘Compassion visits’ will take place in private Resident rooms for those Residents who might be in quarantine or physically unable to comfortably have an indoor/outdoor ‘social visit’. Visitors will be required to don full PPE prior to visiting with their loved ones. These visits have a one-hour time limit.
‘End of life visits’ take place in the Resident room and are restricted to two visitors at a time with no time limit. Full PPE must be worn.
“Staff, Residents and families can see a light at the end of the tunnel after a year of pure hell,” explains Ulven. “I just can’t say enough about the resiliency of our staff and Residents and the support of families this past year. Our Residents and staff just battled through constant changes that were sometimes so frequent we’d joke about ‘...this morning’s guidance vs. this afternoon’s guidance...’ “Through it all, I did not receive a single complaint from families about what we were doing. It was complete and total support with an unbelievable amount of gratitude for the steps we were taking to protect their loved ones. Families obviously had many questions and concerns, but were very understanding of our answers and I cannot express enough how appreciative we are of their unconditional love and support.”