If I am correct, November is a month that tries to focus on the issue of caregiving. As if a month would suffice to acknowledge the stresses and strains of this issue. This issue remains one of the most requested of workshops from Jewish Sacred aging; and rightfully so. As many people in a recent session commented, this is a family systems issue and, despite so many good intentions, it is often done alone. What is also un-nerving is that the issue has received scant attention in the run up to this week’s election. Rarely, in debates or stump speeches or interviews, has a candidate spent details time discussing the challenges and societal implications of the caregiving crises that is now assuming epic proportions. As we Boomers age, and with it increased stress on Social Security and Medicare, we are seeing the challenges to caregivers in particular and society in general on how to deal with this issue; an issue that will continue to challenge is for decades.
For our community, this is a very real issue. A recent Pew study found that the majority of American Jews are over 50 years of age, and that about 25% are over 65. Our longevity will put increased pressure on families and institutions to create meaningful responses to this challenge. We are also being told that there are just not enough qualified caregivers who will be available to care for us. The overall caregiving crises was the subject of a very detailed analyses by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. They recently published a rather extensive study and analyses of this issue.
This report, entitled “Families Caring for an Aging America” is a very focused analyses and snapshot of what is taking place now. There is a detailed discussion of the issues followed by a series of suggestions for the new Congress. There is the call for the government to create a “National Family Caregiver Strategy”.
In one of the concluding statements the report says “If the needs of caregivers are not addressed, we risk compromising the well-being of our elders and their families”. This issue is very real and deserves discussion not only from our Jewish text perspective, but from social justice, moral and ethical stances as well. You can get further information by going to www.national-academies.org
Rabbi Richard F Address