R. Simeon b. Yohai said, “The most difficult of all mitzvot is ‘Honor your father and your mother’” (Tanhuma Ekev, 2). We do not get to choose the families we are born into, and when it comes to raising children, no one receives an instruction manual per se. Therein, some aging loved ones are more difficult than others to care for. But it does not have to be an impossible task, and those who take on the task do not have to be impossibly unhappy or stressed about caregiving.
Last month we learned about the timing in discovering that a loved one needs extra care. This month I wanted to honor caregivers and provide some resources to help those who have taken on the task of caring for a loved one. So, whether one is caring and helping from afar, or moving a parent into her home, the caregiver deserves as much compassion and concern as the aging loved one.
As a caregiver, it is important to ensure that you are cared for as well. The following areas are important to be mindful of when taking care of others:
Find your community: Ensure that you have a support network; whether it is your immediate family, friends, co-workers or extended family does not matter. Even if a family member is unable to help with direct care and financial provisions or lives far away, utilize his or her knowledge and strengths. A social network offers support in both crisis and non-crisis situations, providing resources and opportunities to share the burden (emotionally and otherwise) with others. Sometimes you just need another person to listen.
Get therapeutic support: Whether you work with an individual therapist or join a group, therapy helps make the caregiving process normal and provides an objective “other” to help guide you through the process. There are support groups available through organizations dealing with elder care issues, mental health issues, and community organizations.
Normalize the events: We all get older. Many Baby Boomers and their children are headed into the process of being cared for by someone else, or caring for someone else, so there are a lot of people in the same boat! Additionally, it is important to discuss caregiving with siblings and family members: this allows everyone “a place at the table,” and you make it less frightening and intimidating for all of you when you openly discuss the issues at hand.
Take a break: It is okay to have fun! Yes, taking care of an aging or sick loved one is a lot of responsibility, but you must also ensure your own health and well-being. Do not forget to care for yourself and take time to get away. Family, friends, and others deserve your time as well. There are respite services that provide assistance to caregivers and volunteers who can help with logistics, and don’t forget to ask your community to help you out.
Yes, the Torah instructs us to honor our parents, but it is also important and imperative that we respect and honor ourselves as well. As the Torah says in Deuteronomy 4:15: “And you shall greatly guard your lives…”
Remember to take care of yourself. Α
Dr. Lisa Grajewski is a psychologist working toward licensure. She is a therapist with Jewish Federation Family Services and is a psychological assistant for a private practice in Tustin. Dr. Grajewski has been writing for JLife Magazine since 2004.
Vital information and possible support services for the elderly can be obtained by contacting your local county office of senior services or elder affairs as well as your local social service department. Area adult daycare centers may also provide information on resources for the elderly in your area. These numbers can be located in the governmental pages of the phone book or through a web query. Here are just a few to get you started.
AARP | (800) 424-3410 | www.aarp.org
AARP supplies information about caregiving, long-term care and aging, including publications and audio-visual aids for caregivers.
AGIS Network | (866) 511-9186 | www.agis.com
AGIS.com provides education, support, expert advice, local resources and a vibrant community for caregivers and families of the elderly.
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
(800) 677-1116 | www.n4a.org | www.eldercare.gov
Eldercare Locator provides referrals to Area Agencies on Aging via zip code locations.
The National Association of
Professional Geriatric Care Managers
(520) 881-8008 | www.caremanager.org
This national organization will refer family caregivers to their state chapters, which in turn can provide the names of Geriatric Care Managers in your area.
U.S. Administration on Aging | (202) 619-0724 | www.aoa.gov
The Administration on Aging is the official federal agency dedicated to the delivery of supportive home and community-based services to older individuals and their caregivers.