By Nancy Ludin
Often one defines life by examining life cycle events. When you look back on your life, you think about the friends and family that were with you as you experienced life cycle events such as births and deaths, holiday celebrations and birthday parties. During your younger years, it is easy to recall celebrations with parents, siblings and friends. For many older adults, the calendar is not their friend. Many Mother’s and Father’s Days are spent alone, birthdays are ignored and Jewish holiday celebrations are absent.
Fortunately, this is not true for the elderly in long term care in Orlando, Florida where the Jewish Pavilion, an outreach organization, serves as a surrogate family. Birthdays and holidays are special occasions shared by volunteers and residents.
Today, I went to a funeral service for a resident of HorizonBay. Who was there? He was lucky enough to have a loving daughter and son-in law and a terrific care giver. He also had many friends in the building, staff who loved him and several friends from the Jewish Pavilion who were there to say goodbye to a very special man. A chaplain from VITAS Hospice conducted the service and everyone had the opportunity to share memories. It was a beautiful tribute to an incredible man.
I wish I could tell you that this was a typical goodbye to a resident in long term care, but it wasn’t. Far more often, a staff member or volunteer arrives for his or her weekly visit and finds a name missing from the door. Since we are not family, HIPPA Laws prevent us from learning about the last couple days of life. There is no closure for the staff person or volunteer who was often the resident’s only friend.
Other times, Jewish Pavilion volunteers are called by the facility when a resident passes away, because there is no one else to call. I recall a funeral where there were three people in attendance- two nurses from Life Care and one Pavilion volunteer.
Those of us who are involved with the Jewish Pavilion are honored to play a significant role in the lives of our elders. We are their friends, their family and their link to the Jewish community.