Caring for Our Homebound Seniors with Love

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Ellen Kamaras 

 

 

 

A growing number of our community members are homebound seniors. Ensuring that they get the best care possible in their golden years is our responsibility and our privilege. 

 

We know that the directive to take care of our elders comes from the Torah. The fifth commandment instructs us to “Honor your father and your mother” and in Vayikra 19:32 we are urged to “stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly, and revere your Gd.”  

 

We gain wisdom from older adults and we are instructed to learn from them, to engage with them, and to support them. 

 

We learn in Pirke Avot 4:20: “One who learns Torah from the young, to what can he be likened? To one who eats unripe grapes…But one who learns Torah from the old, to what can he be likened? To one who eats ripe grapes or drinks aged wine.”  

 

The Graying of America 

 

Let’s add some context to what’s happening now in our country and the impact on our seniors. 

 

The nation’s population is getting older. The percentage of adults over 65 in the U.S. increased from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 17.3 percent in 2022. 

 

According to Census.gov, by 2030, all baby boomers (born after WWII between 1946-1964) will be age 65 or older.  Since 2010, ten thousand  baby boomers have turned 65 each day, a phenomenon referred to as “the gray tsunami.”  

 

Another reason the older population is becoming more significant is due to lower birth rates countrywide. According to Dr. Grace Whiting, CEO of the National Alliance of Caregivers, “We aren’t having enough children to take care of us in our old age. My in-law was one of six children, my husband and I were [each] one of two, and we don’t have kids. Extrapolate that out, and that’s what’s happening nationwide.” 

 

More Services Are Needed 

The need for caregiver and health services for individuals 65 and older is rising.  Census statistics are crucial since local, state, and federal lawmakers use them to determine how they will allocate billions of dollars of federal funds each year on critical public services.  

 

Studies show that senior citizens are living longer, often healthier lives.  The quality of life experienced in the senior years is dependent on several factors, including finances and the available support in the community from family, friends, social service organizations, and public services.   

 

Mental and physical engagement and positive social support also contribute to the health of our graying population.  According to the National Institute on Aging researchers have found that older adults can still learn new skills, although it may take a little longer. There is growing evidence that the brain maintains the ability to change and adapt so that people can manage new challenges and tasks as they age. Additionally, it has been found that socialization is essential for the psychological wellness of seniors.  

 

The Take Home Message  

 

What do all these statistics and studies mean for you and me? 

 

We are tasked with the privilege of ensuring our homebound seniors get their physical, emotional, and social needs met.  There is an urgent need in our community for enhanced health care for our homebound seniors. 

 

Homebound seniors are often socially isolated and have unmet physical care needs. Although they are homebound, they can still find joy through engagement and stimulation.  

 

Approximately two million older adults are completely homebound and another 5.5 million are partially homebound and have difficulty or need help getting out of their homes. The homebound population is a high-need, high-cost, vulnerable group.  

 

The number of Americans who became homebound increased during the pandemic. And  although the increased availability of telehealth medicine was welcomed by much of the population, it was less beneficial for homebound seniors. 25 percent of older adults did not own a cell phone and over 50 percent did not own a computer or have online access.  

 

There are wonderful and invigorating activities for our seniors in synagogues, community centers and senior centers.  Sephardic Bikur Holim and the Sephardic Community Center offer superior and life-enhancing programs for seniors who are physically able to travel to their venues.  

 

This begs the question – what about the homebound in our community?   

 

What can we do to improve the care our homebound loved ones receive and how can we ensure they have a good quality of life filled with joy? 

 

A New Vision for Our Homebound Seniors 

Morris Sutton is a community member who has made it his mission to offer our homebound seniors enhanced care – both excellent physical support as well as stimulating activities in their own homes. 

 

Morris is a highly experienced business and finance professional. He was dissatisfied with the many home care attendants recommended to him for his mother, Ruth Sutton, zt”l.  Ruth passed away at the age of 102 last December.  Morris moved into his mother’s apartment for four years to personally select, train, and supervise his mother’s aides.   

 

He recalls one attendant talking on the phone with her therapist for 45 minutes.  Morris made it clear to her that a therapy session should be done on her own time.  Other caregivers did not speak English or barely talked to his mother.  Through word of mouth, Morris succeeded in finding his mother first-rate aides who could meet her physical, social, and emotional needs. 

  

“Some seniors are home alone and it’s dangerous. Many are left watching TV for most of the day.  I want to make available the kind of quality care services that can lengthen our seniors’ lives and give them purpose and happiness, and keep them socially connected.” 

 

One afternoon, Morris met a home care professional on the Boardwalk, engaged in energizing activities with a few seniors. He was inspired. 

 

Morris decided that he wanted to give back to his community and share with others some of the lessons he learned while taking care of his mother. He had witnessed firsthand the benefits of having others listen to, talk to, and engage with his mom. 

 

The Goal of First-Rate Care 

 

His goal is to help community members get the enhanced care their homebound seniors deserve.  Morris is achieving his objective by working hard to locate highly qualified homecare aides through community referrals.   

 

He ensures the caregivers he recommends can attend to the physical needs of our loved ones and are willing and capable of being trained to engage with their clients and perform stimulating activities with them based on the individual senior’s abilities. 

 

Let’s conclude with a last comment on the familiar plea of King David in Psalm 71, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.”  

 

The Baal Shem Tov adds, “Let not old age and stagnation rule my habits and customs.” The Baal Shem Tov’s message is to continually renew one’s good habits and customs, so that when we get older, we will not suffer stagnation or spiritual decline. We take these words to heart, as we strive to provide our elders with the best care to keep them from stagnating, to keep them strong and healthy, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  

 

To connect with Morris please call him at 516-523-9688 or email morrissutton93@gmail.com. 

   

 

 

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.  Ellen is active in her community and is currently the Vice-President of Congregation Bnai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights.  She can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com (www.lifecoachellen.com).