Today, 14 million people identify themselves as Jewish, with approximately 40% of these individuals residing in the United States. As with all different cultures and religions, the rapidly changing demographics of the aging population with the added challenges of chronic illnesses, spiritual needs and understanding of their culture are of great importance. Today’s Jewish elders, their families and caregivers are searching for meaning, purpose and community within their Jewish traditions.
The question becomes how can the aging Jewish individuals who are being cared for in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and even those in hospice be provided with culturally sensitive consideration for their Jewish beliefs, values and traditions? This can be a challenging issue and one that needs to take into consideration all aspects of caring for the Jewish individual, including recognition and a basic understanding of the Jewish holiday observances, fasting practices, prayers, as well as those having to do with dietary needs.
In a collaborative effort with the Golden Manor Jewish Senior Services of San Antonio, TX and mmLearn.org, these issues are addressed in a series of cultural sensitivity training videos. The series is broken down into six short videos that focus on major topics of Jewish culture and tradition. These sessions explore techniques to address the emotional and spiritual needs of Jewish seniors. A final segment answers a variety of frequently asked questions about the unique needs of Jewish seniors in a hospital setting, or those living in a home or care facility. The hope of this joint venture is that it will have a major impact on the quality of care given to Jewish seniors, not only locally but throughout the world.