Without a doubt, the number one requested session from us is the one in which we discuss the new lfe stage of caregiver. A few recent conversations in congregations and organizations continued to bring this fact home. Our recently posted edition of our Seekers of Meaning podcast (posted Nov 1) discussed a book by Joy Lovado on “Who WIll Take Care of Me When I’m Old”. Indeed, whenever we post a podcast or an article on the Jewish Sacred Aging Facebook page (several in this past week) that deals with this issue we get better than average response. With first stage Boomers now knocking on the door of 75, the challenges associated with caregiving are of even greater importance. Few of us have developed a comprehensive “care plan” that discusses how we wish (and who) to be cared for if the need arises. This issue of caring is one of the few that even brings the U.S. Congress together. Just this past week the House passed, in bi-partisna fashion, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act and re-authorized the Older Americans Act Supporting Those With Advanced Illness.
These realities offer an interesting opportunity for congregations and Jewish organizations to examine how they can supoort caregivers within our community. Many of you know people who have entered this new life stage and are stressed beyond imagination juggling caregiving issues plus a job plus other family demands. This is a very personal stage as well as a family systems issue. One of the often overlooked aspects of this issue is the need for self care for the care-giver. A congregation’s Caring Community program can be of great assistance in this area.
We always include several ideas on how a congregation can develop support programs. Often great opportunities are presented to work in cooperation with other agencies such as the local Jewish Family and Children’s Service. We have consulted with numerous congregations on developing programs and services and have looked at rituals that speak to the challenges of caregiving. There are a growing number of organizations and groups that are now invested in developing support programs, ideas and resources for caregivers and their families. One of the areas of growing concern is the expected rise on the number of dementia and Alzheimer’s cases that are expected as Boomers age. (see: www.growingolder.net) Experts tell us that there will not be enough qualified care workers and professional health workers to handle this growth. Again, congregations may have to create programs to provide needed support. The spiritual issues associated with caregiving continue to be of great concern to us. These are moments of personal transition, possible growth and often, the evolution of new aspects of relationships.
We continue to work with congregations and organizations in this area. One such national group is C-TAC, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care. Based in Washington, D.C, C-TAC works with a wide variety of groups to examine the issues (from political and economic to spiritual) that surround the topic of advanced care. The inter-faith group of C-TAC looks at the spiritual challenges associated with this issue. C-TAC helped develop a Tool Kit for Jewish Clergy who wish to develop a program for their congregation on caregiving. We helped develop this and you can find the tool kit by going to the tool bar on the top of this page and click on the Resources tab and look for the Supporting Caregivers In Jewish Congregations. You can also go to www.thectac.org, click on “our work” then “caregiver support” and then look for “caregiver resources” in which is the link to the “tool kit”.
This new life stage is here and impacts so much of a family and individual’s life. Our challenge is to make sure that we continue to support and care for those individuals and families who walk this walk. The tradition’s discussions of the 5th Commandment outline detailed approaches to how we actualize this on-going and powerful mitzvah
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.