Searching for The Words
It is easy to loose our own self in the act of caregiving
I recently had the opportunity to present a short overview of my book, Seekers of Meaning: Baby Boomers, Judaism and the Pursuit of Healthy Aging (URJ Press and AMAZON), at the annual Jewish Book Council gathering in New York. I was happy to see my colleague, Rabbi Doug Kohn with his new book, Broken Fragments (URJ Press), which discusses a variety of approaches to the issue of Alzheimer's disease.
Doug was kind enough to invite me to do a chapter on care-giving issues for his book. The subject of Alzheimer's is all too timely. We know that as we live longer we can expect major increases in cases of Alzheimer's and dementia in the next few decades. The Alzheimer's Association has substantiated this coming increase.
Boomers, now embracing our 60's, are expecting to live decades more. Medical technology is assisting in this life expectation. Thus, we are told, the natural process of aging will give rise to these increases.
This reality is daunting. For those of us who have dealt with types of dementia and/or Alzheimer's, we understand the devastation that can ensue in dealing with this issue. There are profound spiritual issues that arise. We have to wonder… When does a person stop becoming "that" person? Does that ever really happen? When I look at my mom or dad, am I really seeing me in a few years? What would I do...if?!
The emotional, spiritual and financial stresses on family systems are well documented. It is easy to loose our own self in the act of caregiving. And what about the "well" spouse? What changes take place in him or her? Do we need to create a new vocabulary for these situations and revisit how we see such people who may be dealing with elder issues for years?
We face uncomfortable questions, yet, right now, millions of people in this country are trying to navigate this maze, and they are often doing it alone. This is a situation where your faith community can be of great assistance. Just the idea of speaking about the issue, of drawing on your religious tradition's approaches to the issue of dementia and Alzheimer's can give support to those who may feel that they are on this journey by themselves. There is a huge amount of material that can be used as support. The local Alzheimer's association is a great resource. Think about speaking to your faith community's leadership and developing a forum on the subject. You never know whom you will reach and how you may help.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min
Visit Rabbi Address at Jewish Sacred Aging.
Published June 13, 2012