Right now, as you read this, a family in our area is entering the new life stage of caregiver. Indeed, if the statistics are correct, more than one! The AARP cohort, which is really multi-generational at this point, is on the front lines of this caregiving life stage, For many of us, we helped care for an aging parent, or a spouse, or a child. Now, as we age, we begin to look around and ask, who will care for me? This is a family systems issue impacted by aspects of family history, economics, social class and mobility.
The statistics that are being published surrounding this caregiving issue are startling. Some 42 million Americans now serve as family caregivers. According to some studies, out of pocket costs for family caregivers can average about 28% of household income and the numbers are larger for African American and Latino households. If you need to hire outside of the family for caregiving it can cost an average of $28,000 annually. As we discuss in many of our workshops on the Jewish approach to caregiving, most of us are one medical crisis away from financial challenge.
April not only brings us Passover, but also, National Health Care Decision Day. The designated day this year falls on the first day of Passover. Sukkat Shalom, the Jewish advisory group for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice is urging that each of us have a conversation with loved ones on the creation of a family based care plan. In the Seder we will read the Four Questions. Here are four questions that can form the basis of that sacred conversation.
One: What is my wish as to where I wish to be cared? If I wish to remain at home for as long as possible, is my home set up for this?
Two: Do I have an adequate financial and legal plan in place and are those documents easily available?
Three: Between my spouse and children, /child, have we discussed a division of responsibility? This is especially important if children are not local. For individuals who are alone, without spouse or family, this issue is of great importance. Have you identified friends etc who can be with you? Another reason for discussions with an elder care law firm.
Four: Have I made my wishes known in the event my illness progresses to the point that I cannot make my wishes known?
As you consider this care plan, know that Jewish texts and tradition have much to say as a guide. Consult with your rabbi or reach out to us at jewishsacredaging.com. Our area is rich with resources. Please make use of the network of elder care attorneys, many of whom have staff that helps guide you in planning. Our Jewish Family and Children’s Service network has a multitude of resources as we are blessed with one of the finest in the country. Samaritan also provides expert help in areas of Palliative care and family support. No one is alone in this. Planning avoids the need to make decisions in a moment of crises. Too often we enter this life stage not gradually, but in an instant.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.MIn
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.