OLd man with money problmes - senior fraud
OLd man with money problmes - senior fraud Thinkstock

An Introductiion

We've frequently heard the term “sandwich generation.”  It refers to adults, husbands and wives who are attending to the needs of frail parents and relatives while at the same looking after their children even grandchildren.

It can be a challenge. It is stressful at times, requiring skill to coordinate and juggle these sometimes competing roles effectively. Beyond those issues present for the general population, our commitment to fulfilling Mitzvas Kibud Av V’Eim places an additional layer of accountability into the mix. In this column we will offer information, resources, state of the art research findings, halachik guidelines as well as an open forum to help families in their roles.   The ability to successfully navigate between these responsibilities is dependent on what is inside the sandwich. Our aim is to strengthen family caregivers by following the dictum of Shlomo Hamalech’s Mishlei ודעת לנפשך ינעם     ב,י (Knowledge Sooths the Soul), expanding reader’s knowledge with the concomitant benefit of fostering menuchas hanefesh.

“I Don’t Know What The Problem Is !”

Not too long ago

  • I heard a respected Rabbi and Talmud Scholar exclaim to an audience, “ I  just don’t know what the problem is, if you are a Shomer Shabbos, you can equally mikayim mitzvas kibud av v’eim!
  • When I had told a recently married Lakewood young man that I was writing a book on Kibud Av V’Eim and eldercare, he reacted and said, “ Is there really a need for something like that? What possible shaylos are there in Kibud Av V’Eim?” The fellow was working in a long term care facility at the time.
  • I was conducting a survey on the topic. The director of a rabbinic association did not understand the term “family caregiver,” and I when I explained it to him, he said it is outside the purview of the organization and his members. It is not an area of interest.

While there has been progress, these incidents highlight the depth of the problem. There exists a lack of understanding and sensitivity of the issue among multiple segments of our community. Close neighbors and relatives do not appreciate its scope. To complicate matters, regular resources for council are not always utilized. It is becomes unseemly for an established upstanding member of the congregation to reach out to his rov and confide that his mother is giving him a hard time. The matter remains unresolved.

Defining Caregiver Burden, How to Evaluate It, and How to Reduce It

I have extensive personal experience on the topic and have been assisting families in our community respond to its challenges for over 25 years. For the past five years our family has been caring for my in-laws while having unmarried children at home. Until their passing, I also served as family caregiver to both my parents for a total of eleven years. My wife and I spent this past Shabbos at a specialty hospital with my father- in- law, but we were feeling a bit unanchored as this was the third time that we were away and hadn’t spent Shabbos together with our children as a family.

Supported by the latest scientific literature and the findings of the landmark research study of Orthodox Jewish caregiving, the next installment will begin our discussion on Defining Caregiver Burden, How to Evaluate It, and How to Reduce It. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Rabbi Becker is an experienced public health professional specializing in eldercare and organizational development.  He has written two acclaimed books on eldercare and kibud av v’eim, multiple articles on healthy aging and founded L’Orech Yomim/Center For Healthy Living to assist caregivers and their families respond to the challenges of their respective roles. Visit www.lorechyomim.org for valuable resources on the topic. Email info@lorechyomim.org to sign up for the newsletter and additional updates.

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