January 19, 2020

Honoring Our Elders: Looking to Our Jewish Neighbors for Inspiration

Taking care of our elderly parents or grandparents can be a tiring, daunting, and sometimes thankless task. In the US, we are a melting pot of a wide variety of cultures that have settled here and bring in their own ideas on how we care for the family. When it comes to caring for our elderly, we can take great inspiration from the Jewish community.

Inspiration Found in Wisdom

Much of what Judaism teaches is based on the understanding that with age comes wisdom. The longer we live, the more we experience, and the wiser we become. In many Jewish communities, one does not learn the Kabbalah until they are 40 or older. They need wisdom to fully learn and wisdom does not mean that you stop learning. Rather the wise are more open to learning from all their experiences. Because of this important focus on the elderly and all the wisdom they possess, caring for the older folks in the community is equally as important.

Caring in Sharing the Responsibilities

It is Jewish law that the children of the elderly care for them in every capacity possible. Depending on the severity of illness or aging, that can be easy or difficult. When it’s easy, it could be nothing more than installing a stair lift, outfitting the bathroom with shower chairs, or widening hallways to allow for a wheelchair to get through the house. Day to day tasks can be accomplished by driving the elderly on their errands, giving them the freedom to still do things and yet keeping them safe. Hiring a housekeeper, someone to mow the lawn, or taking turns helping with the upkeep of a home are all ways to care.

Many opt for moving the elderly into their own homes. For many cases, it makes it easier to care for their elderly by keeping them close and not worrying about the upkeep of two homes. While some of us may stress over the idea of moving their parents in, for the Jewish this is the way of life that they have witnessed since childhood. One simply doesn’t think that there are any other options available to them.

In the US, we have seen a rise in facilities that will make taking care of our elderly. They range from retirement communities to assisted living facilities and convalescent homes. They are designed to provide care for the elderly and allow families to enjoy their elderly rather than stress over their care. This works for many families but in some cases, it creates division. Adult children who need to work full-time and care for their own children full-time, find themselves in a predicament trying to spend time with their own parents who are conveniently cared by experts. It may seem easy in the Jewish faith to care for their own but what happens when someone needs nursing around the clock and the convalescent home suddenly seems like an easier option?

Ultimately, Jewish law states that adult children must care for their elderly. However, a growing number are starting to question the intent behind using a nursing home for care. Some argue that if the aging parent can still make decisions and wants to go, the children can place them in the home as a reasonable act of love. We will see if that becomes a trend or if the Jewish community will stay devoted as they have for so long.

It’s important to note that the Jewish faith honors all sorts of life stages. From the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to motherhood, to the elderly, there is much to appreciate and honor that happens in our lives!