Huge Changes [Chaplaincy Chronicles]

There are huge changes taking place, which is very on-brand for 2021 (the year of change), although these are affecting my job. These changes have come from both governmental agencies that regulate what can be done at the senior living facility where I serve as a chaplain, as well as the organization that funds my position.

Changes from the Ohio Department of Health
Amidst the global pandemic, one of the aspects that has drastically changed the trajectory of the virus has been the vaccination efforts, not only nationally, but throughout Ohio, including the facility where I work. With almost all of the residents vaccinated against COVID-19 (there are a small number of residents who refused the vaccination) and most of the staff being vaccinated (we did better than the state average), positive cases of COVID-19 in the building have drastically dropped since our vaccination clinics in January.

As such, fortunately, the Ohio Department of Health (henceforth, ODOH) has recognized the power and effectiveness of the vaccinations to permit greater movement of both residents, as well as their visitors in accessing each other. Last week, in a press release, the ODOH has made a number of changes, the highlights of which are

  • Ohio is requiring that visitation be permitted whenever safety protocols can be met. Previously, visitation was permitted, not required.
  • Vaccinated residents may have physical touch with their visitor while wearing a mask. Previously, touch was discouraged.
  • Visits may occur in a resident’s private room, as opposed to the previous requirement of a separate visitation area.
  • 30 minutes should serve as the minimum amount of time for a visit. Previously, 30 minutes was the maximum time to visit.
  • The order also expands the circumstances in which compassionate care visits should be granted.

Excitingly, another highlight is that “the order updates nursing home and assisted living testing requirements to require the facilities to test vaccinated staff once per week and unvaccinated staff twice per week. The previous order made no distinction between vaccinated or unvaccinated staff.” Although I will miss the twice-weekly testing (I actually just got tested for my 58th COVID-19 test today) as I got both of my doses of the vaccine in January, it is a nice move away from the height of the pandemic.

Changes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Another significant change came just weeks ago from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that now, according to updated guidance, whenever there are positive COVID-19 results from staff doesn’t necessarily require a suspension of activities. This is really great news! For many months, our facility has been subject to even just one staff member turning up positive for the virus to prevent activities from taking place, which has been greatly unfortunate, as had recently occurred. However, now, with the new guidance, we are not, as had occurred with a positive case amongst the staff that just happened within the past week (instead, only skilled nursing experienced a suspension of activities, allowing assisted living programming, dining, etc. to continue).

Changes from the Jewish Home of Cincinnati
Another huge change is the updated press release from the Jewish Home of Cincinnati (henceforth, JHC) regarding their shift in mission and vision, as well as the announcement of their new executive director. This press release, which was published by The American Israelite today, is an update from the press release they had initially published five weeks ago, which I had highlighted and discussed previously.

In the updated press release, they announced “plans to expand its footprint in the Greater Cincinnati community as a resource for supporting Greater Cincinnati’s Jewish seniors”. Furthermore, according to the press release, the JHC is “pivoting their strategic direction. Not only will JHC continue to support programs related to Jewish life at Cedar Village, but it will also become a grant-making organization to care for local Jewish seniors in the broader community”. This change is “reflective of seniors’ preferences and trends locally and nationally to age in place in their home versus in communal living.”

For further contextualization of the relationship between the JHC and the senior living facility where I work is articulated as:

Following the sale of Cedar Village, JHC has worked in partnership with the new owners and property manager, CarDon, to assure a smooth transition and ensure that Cedar Village remains a Jewish home. JHC continues to provide support to residents through the Cedar Village Foundation (CVF), the sole supporting arm of JHC. Steve Schwartz, CVF Chair of its Board of Directors noted, “CVF exists to support the well-being of Jewish older adults in Greater Cincinnati in alignment with JHC’s pivot and transformation.” CVF assists JHC as fiduciary stewards for the benefit of the Cedar Village residents with mission related commitments. These include pastoral care, Jewish religious observances, kosher meals freshly prepared on premises, and Jewish cultural and secular programming. The Harkavy/Berg Committee of JHC continues to support creative programming to enrich the lives of Cedar Village residents. Judaica owned by JHC remains on loan at Cedar Village and is displayed throughout the building.

In addition to this pivoting, they also announced the hiring of a new executive director, Nina Perlove. Since having discussed the previous iteration of their press release, I have had the opportunity to connect with her on a couple of Zoom meetings, and I look forward to continuing to connect and work together to serve Jewishly-identifying seniors at the senior living facility where I work.

One further piece of interest from the press is that the JHC will “begin accepting Letters of Inquiry and grant-making requests later this year”, so we should see how that develops.

Synthesizing These Changes
As you can imagine, this avalanche of changes is so incredibly sweeping and profoundly affecting my work. It is also so much to synthesize in such a short time. Moreover, having gotten the hang of this job over the course of my first ten months, it will be quite the transition into this next phase of my work as a Director of Pastoral Care at a senior living facility.

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