We are in midst of a caregiving crisis. The multigenerational aspect of this crisis is slowly being recognized. It must be a major priority for our generation. So many of us have lived this, are living it or will live it. How many of us have developed a comprehensive family care plan. This is in addition to our end of life plans and wishes. With so many of us living longer and living with various chronic illnesses and with mobility a reality and finances a major issue; we will have no choice but to focus attention on this.
The United States has no comprehensive approach to caregiving or the caregiver. The financial burden of caring for loved one can and often, does, destroy a family’s financial support. Likewise, this and other psycho-spiritual stresses create physical and mental health challenges for the caregiver that can be life altering.
We are being told that there are some 44 million unpaid caregivers in the USA. A 2021 study by Genworth noted that the average age of the caregiver was 51, and that the average duration of one needing long-term care was 3.5 years.
The impact is challenging.
Fifty-seven percent of caregivers had children under the age of 18 living at home and this caused increased stress and strain within the family unit. These stresses included the caregiver’s own health and wellness as well as significant loss of savings and quality of living.
The Jewish tradition bases our approach to this issue on two words from Torah: honor (kabaid) and respect (tir’oo). The Talmud, in Kiddushin has an extensive discussion on what these words mean. Much reflects the concept of dignity and time. Now, we need to expand that discussion to include not only the person needing care, but also the person providing care. We hope to devote on-going space here to the various aspects and challenges of this caregiver issue. This is a major part of our Jewish Sacred Aging work and the “Art” of Caregiving workshop that we offer to congregations. A detailed outline on “Supporting Caregivers in Jewish Congregations” is available on this website by going to the Resources tab.
We are also partnering with Dr. Jessica Zitter, a critical- and palliative-care doctor in California to promote her film Caregiver: A Love Story. We hope to make this film available to your congregation/organization.
We’ve produced a short video conversation with Dr. Zitter that introduces this film, which you can watch here, and also on this permanent resource page.
We will continue this discussion here, on our Facebook page and with some of our Seekers of Meaning podcasts. We look forward to hearing your story and thoughts.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.