The Work of Caring

This week I will note a milestone in my life – maybe not a milestone most people would track, but I am one of those people who retains, and thinks about, dates. The milestone is becoming, this Thursday, older than my mother was when she passed away. She was diagnosed with breast cancer very young – when I was a freshman in high school, and she fought with everything she had, but in the end it was a battle she lost.

She missed so much and I’ve missed, every day, sharing life with her. From the birth of her grandchildren, to graduations and marriages, Bar Mitzvahs and loss, my life has been longer without her physical presence than with it. All of our family’s lives have been without her warmth, compassion, generosity and unwavering positive attitude and the stories I tell are never, and can never be, enough.

I think that is why I am drawn to the work that I do, to being a part of the lives of older adults, to helping care for them in ways that I did not have the opportunity to do for either of my parents. What I watch here at the Jewish Home Family, in all of our settings, changes depending upon the needs of the resident, tenant, participant or patient. Yet it is always distinguished by one thing—an underlying compassion, an enduring gentleness and an abiding love.

Caregiving is hard work. Many of our older adults have multiple and complex health needs. They can no longer do the things they once did for themselves. And their families are overwhelmed or ill equipped or just unable to manage. Many just don’t know where to turn. We provide that answer. We provide whatever the individual and their family needs. We offer everything from advice and counseling to medical day care. We help people get back on their feet through rehabilitation services. We assist those who want to stay in their own homes to age successfully in their community. For those who need or desire more residential care, we offer a variety of options tailored to their care and preferences.
No matter what the services provided, the attitude and focus are always the same. We hone in on understanding and meeting the unique needs and desires of each individual. We want to know who they are today and who they were in their lives. What choices do they make about their aging experience? What can we do to help them physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally? We treat them as we would want our loved ones treated and value them as we would members of our own families.
This is the work of caring. I have the gift of watching it, of seeing the difference that staff, at every level, make in the lives of older adults. While I may not have had this experience with my own parents, I am proud to be a part of it, to know that life for the older adults we touch is enriched, enhanced and meaningful. I know that if my mother were here today she, too, would feel the love, care and commitment and she, too, would be proud.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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