Get to Know Us: Jewels Ali

Jewels’ journey as a Psychogeriatric Case Manager with LOFT started when he was still a student at George Brown College. While enrolled in the Personal Support Worker (PSW) program, Jewels’ initial career goal was to help young people.  During a work placement at LOFT’s John Gibson House, however, Jewels ultimately found his passion: to work with seniors and to support people facing complex mental health challenges.

Jewels has now been working with LOFT for 13 years. As a staff person at John Gibson House, he helped provide high-support housing for some of the most vulnerable, at-risk and frail older adults and seniors in the community. Having gained valuable experience, Jewels was ready to transition into a new role and a new location. Jewels has been working as a Psychogeriatric Case Manager at LOFT St. Anne’s Place for past 10 years. St. Anne’s place an apartment residence for seniors facing mental health and addiction challenges, physical health concerns, social isolation, poverty, and homelessness.

Problem-solving, advocating and coordinating is a big part of Jewel’s day-to-day work. In order to support clients, he wears many hats! While managing many small-scale tasks, he also tackles larger problems. Jewels’ role is pivotal in making clients’ everyday experience smooth and free from frustration.

Relationship building is paramount in his position; in this area, Jewels is committed and constant, regularly assessing his clients’ needs and advocating for appropriate support. He understands that what can seem so simple to other people, can be anxiety-inducing and uncomfortable for his clients. “It doesn’t take much to make our clients smile,” he says. “Just listen to what they have to say and help them in the way they need it. Speak to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and everything else will comes easy.”

Jewels really loves and enjoys the opportunity to offer help. “We want to give our clients’ the best years of their lives,” he explains. Many of those who struggle with mental health challenges throughout their lives often have a hard time with the comforts we may take for granted before finding a supportive place to live. The clients at LOFT’s St. Anne’s Place program are retired and ready to enjoy a peaceful and friendly place to spend their days. “Clients just want a nice place to live, good food to eat, people they can talk to, and staff they can trust and get help from,” says Jewels. “Putting a smile on our clients’ faces makes what we do rewarding. That’s the biggest thing for me,” he concludes.

Clients’ happiness begins with a recognition of and a respect for their independence. The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions have made it hard for them to do the things they used to do before. “Some of our clients like to go out and do shopping on their own and now they can’t do that anymore because of the pandemic restrictions,” explains Jewels. Medical appointments are now done virtually and Jewels and his team are always ready to support them with technical challenges.

“When you have lived a certain way for so long, it’s hard to condition yourself to new normal,” he says. “We are always looking for ways to keep our clients safe and engaged. We take the temperatures of our clients twice a day. If clients show any symptoms we ask them to isolate and arrange for a COVID test. We provide meals in their unit and we give them the option to choose what to eat every day. It is important to make them feel like they are still independent in some way.”

At the end of the day, Jewels and the team at St. Anne’s Place want clients to feel like they belong. “We see the person, not what the diagnosis is,” he says. As challenging as the pandemic has been, the team is still prioritizing clients’ independence and empowering them to make their own choices, while keeping them safe. “We believe in a dignified life for everyone.”