Acclaimed author Howard Jacobson entertained hundreds of supporters of Jewish care home charity Nightingale Hammerson at the Guildhall in London on Monday night, explaining how he thought his evening invite was an invite into care.
Broadcaster Suzy Klein, who has a relative at Nightingale House, led the evening’s proceedings, telling the audience about the charity’s pioneering projects working with families on memory books and arts and crafts, collaborating with universities like UCL, and developing an on-site team of ten physio and occupational therapists.
However it was Jacobson who stole the show. “The invitation came as a shock, because I misread the phrase ‘we’d love you to come to speak with us’ as ‘we’d love you to come to sleep with us’. Sleep – was that a euphemism? Was I being offered free residential care for the rest of my natural life? And if I was, ought I to accept?
“I asked my wife what she thought. She didn’t hesitate – ‘take it,’ she said. My mother too was positive – ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth.’ And my son was over-the-moon, saying: ‘That’s a relief.’”
He said it may still be too early, since he was still pondering where he’d come from. “For Jews of course the answer is God. One day, on some whim or other, perhaps because He was lonely, He decided to ‘word’ us into being – ‘let there be Jews’. Next thing we’re in a garden not wearing anything, arguing about the fruit. It might remind you of your last holiday.”
Nightingale Hammerson chair Melvin Lawson said he recently received an email from the son of a new resident, who said his mother looked “ten years younger,” adding: “Her move to Nightingale has given her a new lease of life, because now she has a new organisation and a new set of people about whom she can complain”.
The charity, which provides residential, nursing and dementia care, was recently awarded an ‘outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission, putting it in the top one percent of residential care homes in the country, and in the top five in London.
“Achieving this doesn’t happen by chance,” said Lawson. “It comes from having the right culture, ethos and values. It comes from our volunteers, our donors, and our dedicated board and outstanding senior leadership team.”
Lawson also used the evening to launch Nightingale Hammerson’s new Care Home Education Centre, which has just received accreditation as a City & Guilds approved centre, licensed to develop qualifications in 11 different health and social care subjects, which he said would help the charity retain its best staff.
It follows a warning last year from the head of the National Association of Jewish Homes that several Jewish care homes in the UK would fold in the coming years.
Mark Cunningham’s prediction came as Nightingale Hammerson bosses suggested that the Jewish community could initiate its own insurance-style social care fund, with regular payments made in a style similar to those made into burial funds through synagogues.