I recently had the honor of speaking to a conference focusing on the medical and spiritual issues of ALzheimer’s. The conference was held at the JCC in St. Louis, MO. A beautiful sunny Sunday morning drew 200+ people for a three hour conference on these issues. There were consumers, care-givers, colleagues and the like; all drawn to help create a community of caring. The conference theme, “Shedding Light on Alzheimer’s: A Jewish Perspective”, provided opportunities for dialogue with a major figure in the medical community of St Louis who has been a pioneer in treating Alzheimer’s. Likewise, a second breakout focused on conversations with synagogue based “care teams”. Much of that conversation focused on how congregation Caring Community committees can help support families and individuals who are walking this path. There was a lot of conversation related to breaking down stigma, combatting isolation as well as training volunteers to be of assistance in this area of support. One of the challenges that was pointed out is how a congregation in a smaller city, without a surrounding Jewish community infrastructure, can do this work. This remains an issue for many congregations. It is easier to develop these support programs living in a major metropolitan area that often has a strong and supportive Jewish Family Service. What does that rabbi, living hours away from such an infrastructure, do to create that supportive and understanding embrace? We need to remember that not every congregation and not every rabbi serves in a major metro area.
One of the interesting aspects of the conversation at the conference was the inclusion of some prayers that were specific to the issue of caring. One that seemed to speak to many in the audience comes from a D.Min project by Rabbi Michele Medwin.
It is a prayer for care-givers and it reads:
Sustainer of the Universe, help me to care for my loved one, with hope, courage and sensitivity.
Grant me insight, resourcefulness and the ability to ask for help and to accept help when it is needed.
May I find the patience to overcome difficult moments and to find meaning and purpose in the smallest task.
O Eternal God, help me to remember to take of myself so that I may have the strength to help others.
Be with me and my loved one, as we journey on this path together.
May the One who makes peace in the heavens, bring peace to me, to my family and loved ones, and to us all.
Rabbi Richard F Address