Supporting Caregivers in Jewish Congregations

Rabbi Richard Address (left), created the following toolkit. He is the founder of Jewish Sacred Aging and <br>Co-Chair of C-TAC's Interfaith and Diversity Workgroup.
Rabbi Richard Address (left), created the following toolkit. He is the founder of Jewish Sacred Aging and
Co-Chair of C-TAC's Interfaith and Diversity Workgroup.

What To Look For In This "How To" Guide

C-TAC has prepared the following guide to aid in the creation of a program of caregiver support for your community.  Building on the general AARP “Prepare to Care” resource guide, this “how to” focuses on Jewish texts and tradition. It looks at a variety of ways one can work with a caregiver and includes a section on the much needed issue of caregiver self-care.

 Following this overview, there is a description of how our tradition approaches the issue of caregiving. We then include a sample of programs that have already been developed and used in congregational settings.

We have also included a section that represent a growing trend within our community to have this caregiver life stage supported through prayer and ritual.

Finally, there is a short list of additional resources, both secular and Jewish.

This toolkit was developed with support from the Cigna Foundation.

I. Introduction

MAZEL TOV and welcome to the C-TAC site for Jewish clergy on how to create a caregiving program for your congregation. No doubt you have been, and will continue to be involved with members of your community, and their families, who have entered, or will be entering, the new life stage of caregiver. As a tradition that has at its core  the concept of chesed and the value of bikkur cholim, we are called upon to respond with compassion, love and support to those with advanced illness. Issues of caregiver burn out, familial stresses (especially financial), spiritual challenges (think the Book of Job) along with many other issues are confronted daily.

Too often many associate the challenges of this caregiver stage as linked to end of life scenarios. Yet, as many of us know, this caregiver stage can last months, or years and impacts an entire family system. To this end, C-TAC looks at the long view of advanced care, and suggest understanding this life stage as dealing with an illness that is defined as “one or more conditions becoming serious enough that general health and functioning begin to decline, curative treatment loses its effectiveness, and care become increasingly oriented towards comfort”. In other words, this is a care-oriented life stage that accompanies a person through the end of life.

The demographics of our American Jewish community are helping to drive this reality. Close to 25% of our population over 65 and a recent Pew Foundation study found the median age is 50.  Medical technology has provided significant benefits as well as raised ethical challenges to those dealing with advanced illness.

Studies from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving remind us that 30% of family caregivers are themselves over 65 and almost a quarter of caregivers are now Millennials (people between 18 and 34).  Multi-generational caregiving is no longer a rarity. Add to this, the realities and added complexities of long-distance care and this issue is, for many families, THE issue. Indeed, as Boomers age (and every baby Boomer now alive in their 50's and 70's) elder health care will surpass child care as the number one family financial challenge.

The AARP “Prepare to Care is a valuable resource that provides a comprehensive overview on the totality of caregiving. To assist you and your community look into this issue and prepare a program of support and caring, C-TAC has posted this short “How To” guide.

II. Some Tips on Working with Caregivers
III. Textual Foundations for Caregiving
IV. Sample Programs from Selected Congregations
V. Rituals and Prayers that Support Caregiving
VI. Resources

C-TAC would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Rabbi Richard Address, who demonstrated tireless dedication to people with advanced illness and their families by creating this toolkit. Rabbi Address is the Founder of Jewish Sacred Aging and Co-Chair of the C-TAC Interfaith and Diversity Workgroup.