November, it seems, is the month that has been chosen to highlight the care-giver. The longevity revolution has really created this new “life stage” of care-giver; a life stage that can last not only months, but years and even decades. Care-giving is often a multi-generational affair; the sandwich generation now often a “club-sandwich” generation.
The National Health Care Ministries web site recently noted that “as many as 50 million people in the US are providing some amount of care for a family member who is chronically ill, has a disability or is experiencing frailty associated with old age.”
HCM suggests some interesting ways a community and/or congregation can be supportive of care-givers.
- think about creating a care team ministry. In our work, these “caring community” programs work off the basic Jewish value of visiting the sick (“bikkur cholim”) and “p’kuach nefesh”(saving a life). Many congregations, borrowing from the Catholic model of Parish Nurses, are exploring the creation of a congregational nurse to assist clergy and lay people in developing relationships with people who may be frail or in need of companionship.
- Watch who no longer comes to events. This change in behavior may be indicative of stresses and strains at home and may be a tip-off that a person has entered this new life stage and may be in need of assistance.
- Develop the possibility of creating gifts or baskets filled with items that may be useful for a person needing care. This would assist the care giver as well. Toiletries etc. (recently we heard of a synagogue in Falls Church, VA.—Temple Shalom– who creates these care-giver support goodie bags to assist people who may be unable to get out to shop, especially in bad weather)
- Create a care-giver Shabbat which seeks to honor those people who are involved in this “mitzvah”. Sample liturgies and ideas on how to do this are available through the Union for Reform Judaism’s department of Jewish Family Concerns and their Sacred Aging project and published in their program and resources book on this issue “to Honor and Respect” (URJ Press)
SOME ADDITIONAL FACTS RE CARE-GIVING
- The typical family caregiver is a 46 year old woman caring for her widowed mom who does not live with her. She is married and employed. Approximately 60% of family caregivers are women.
- 1.4 million children, 8-18 provide some of the care for an adult relative. 72% are caring for parent or grandparent
- 30% of family caregivers caring for older adults are 65 years of age or older…another 15% are 45-54
- 17% of family caregivers provide at least 40 hours per week of care
- The value of care-giving has been estimated at about $306 Billion per year which more than is spent on private and nursing home care.
- As the population ages, the need for family caregivers will rise.
- Women who are family caregivers are 2.5 time more likely than non caregivers to live in poverty and five times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Care-giving families where one has a disability have a median income 15% lower than non care-giving families. Out of pocket expenses are estimated to be 2.5 times greater than in families without disabled person.