Caring enough to be outraged

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

I love vacations. I cherish the time with my family, the change of routine and hopefully, different scenery. I came back from a recent holiday and the next day hurried to see a resident with whom I have a special relationship. She is not well and is declining. I entered the skilled residential facility short of running. I was dreading the worst. I knew she had been in and out of the hospital with increased frequency. I made sure I stopped by before my vacation to let her know I would be away for a short time and would see her as soon as I returned.

 I know she questions why she is still living with all of her ailments. She often asks me, “How much more can my body take?” and tells me that she often feels like a burden to her children.  She tells me that she feels tired, in pain and stripped of her dignity. She is outraged that sometimes it takes 45 minutes for someone to come to take her to the bathroom by which time it is too late. She shares that she is embarrassed because she can no longer dress herself or even choose what she wants to wear.  Often, more of her food ends up on her bib than in her mouth.

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 Many of the residents that I visit were pillars of our society. They raised funds for their synagogues and communities. Never did they think they would be at the mercy of a stranger to take them to the bathroom. I ask if I can speak to the head of the facility or a supervisor. They always say no. They are fearful of reprisals. Do we ever stop and think about how we are treating the elderly? Where is the outrage and where are the answers?

My friend knows her family loves her. I care about her deeply. I feel selfish. I want one more visit.