The Nofim Tower assisted-living facility in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood is known as a serene and idyllic community.
Residents live in one of its 153 apartments and can count on medical and social support. They maintain their independence and enjoy a wide range of social activities and services, such as a mini-market and a dining hall on the premises.
But last week a social worker at the facility, which was established in 1984, was diagnosed with coronavirus. The situation has deteriorated since then.
All the residents and many staff members are currently in isolation at the facility, and at least another five people are infected.
Among them is Sheeny, the Indian caretaker of 98-year-old Miriam Sacks, whose son Dov described a very difficult situation to The Jerusalem Post.
“My mother is 98, and she is not independent,” he said. “A few days ago, her aide told us that she wasn’t feeling well and that she might have contracted the virus from the social worker.”
Sacks said he insisted that Sheeny and his mother be hospitalized to check whether they had been infected. At first it seemed only Sheeny would be hospitalized because she had some symptoms, while Miriam did not.
“We had to insist again, and also Sheeny said that she refused to go without her,” he told the Post.
At the hospital, they both got tested. The caretaker was diagnosed with COVID-19. She is still hospitalized.
“We called her,” Sacks said. “She can barely talk. She is very weak.”
Miriam tested negative.
“Considering the amount of time they spent together, it is a miracle,” Sacks said. However, the situation remains very complicated.
Sacks’s mother was quickly discharged from the hospital in the middle of the night.
Now she has to be in isolation. The family could not find anybody to take care of her, so Dov’s 76-year-old sister had to move in to Nofim, even though she recently received cancer treatment and is part of the population at risk of the most serious consequences if she were to contract the virus. The family is still trying to find a temporary caregiver, but so far to no avail, Sacks said.
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For other residents at Nofim, the situation is still challenging but less problematic.
“Every day, somebody from the staff calls to see how we are doing, if we have questions, or if we need something,” Ruth Weiner, 89, told the Post.
Weiner, originally from New York, has been living at Nofim for several years. She said since there are a few English-speaking residents, she asked the facility to provide the daily updates they distribute in English as well as in Hebrew, and they immediately agreed.
Weiner said she lives by herself, and while it is not easy to be in isolation, she is well cared for.
“I can call the minimarket and the dining hall if I need food, and fortunately I have my TV, my computer and the phone,” she said.
Weiner said she is worried.
“I think everybody in the world is [worried],” she said. “However, here I feel protected. I was supposed to travel to New York on Monday, but I decided to cancel. I feel much better here.”
The staff members are doing their best to handle the situation, Weiner said.
“Many people running the building are in quarantine here, and they are really doing a good job,” she said.
Her niece Debra Solomont told the Post: “What happened at Nofim is unfortunate, but it is happening because we are facing a pandemic. They are a wonderful, well-run facility, very attentive to all the needs of their residents. My father was there for 17 years before passing away in January, and I can only thank them for all the love and support they gave him.”