The League of Jewish Women in the UK runs a “Hand in Hand” welfare rota, offering hand and arm massages to elderly people in hospitals and residential homes, often to people with dementia. Massaging hands, wrists and arms is for many elderly people the only form of physical contact that they have with another person. It is often as therapeutic for the volunteers as it is for the recipients, and they have started to give massages to the staff of the residential homes as well as the residents.
The League has 25 members trained in the art of gentle hand and arm massage. Penelope Conway, an osteopath by profession, a Past President of the League and President-elect of ICJW, trains all the volunteers at the League’s offices in Camden. Members are provided with all the necessary equipment and oils contained in a special LJW bag.
League members also visit residential homes to lead interactive reading sessions of short stories to small groups of residents. They often use props to encourage their elderly audience to make comments about the characters introduced and the subject matter. Other volunteers are reading newspaper and magazine articles and start discussions with the residents.
Another rapidly growing LJW project is their knitting project, with members from eight LJW groups knitting as fast as they can to keep up with demand! One member is knitting multi-coloured bags that are used by patients to carry their morphine pumps around in the cancer ward at Queens Hospital in Essex. Others are knitting baby clothes for premature babies in hospitals, and blankets to be sent to poor communities in Eastern Europe.
The latest LJW innovation is ‘Twiddle Muffs’ – tactile muffs decorated with buttons and bows, knots and beads reduce stress among dementia patients in hospital wards and residential homes. So far LJW members have donated over 150 muffs and they are struggling to keep up with demand. They now have both knitting and sewing groups working on the project, demonstrating how LJW welfare projects are being adapted continually to meet the changing needs of society.