By Rabbi Young, Seven Acres & The Medallion Chaplain
“Honor your father and your mother.”
The Torah states this commandment twice, almost verbatim, and also restates it in several different forms. Clearly, the commandment amounts to a fundamental principle in Judaism.
When an aging parent requires increasing levels of personal care, an adult child or children may find themselves in a quandary. What is the best way to honor the parent while also meeting their gradually increasing care needs?
According to traditional texts, a child must personally take care of their parent’s needs. Maimonides, the 12th Century scholar, suggests an exception. In a case where a child is disturbed by a parent’s dementia, he concludes that one may hire someone else to provide the needed care for them.
In response, Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquieres, a contemporary of Maimonides, asked: “Whom can he command to take care of him?” In other words, who but the children can provide an appropriate level of loving care? At that time, children likely would have great difficulty finding someone more qualified than themselves to care for the parent.
As life expectancy continues to grow and with amazing advances in social, medical, and psychological care, home-like facilities with adequately trained staff are available to care for the elderly. In many cases, these senior living communities are better suited to meet an ailing parent’s needs than adult children, who usually lack the training and time as well as the means to create, staff, and support a suitable care environment on their own.
The question of how best to honor the parent now centers on quality of life. Many older adults are happier living in a community of others near their age with a range of activities geared toward them rather than in a home with a family busily involved in their own daily activities. Further, children of aging parents might live far away, and the parents likely would fare much better by remaining in the area they may have called “home” for decades.
Today’s assisted living facilities and nursing homes often provide the best option to maximize quality of life by meeting elderly parents’ physical, social and psychological needs.
We are taught in the Torah, “In the presence of the elderly you shall rise, and you shall respect an elder; you shall have fear of your God; I am Adonai.”
Caring for the elderly is a commandment for all, not just children. Many communities, such as Seven Acres and The Medallion, create an opportunity for others to deliver on this commandment by volunteering, thus enriching the residents’ social lives. Others take the opportunity to contribute financially to either lessen the families’ financial burden of caring for their loved one or funding additional amenities and programs that further enhance the residents’ quality of life.
By sharing the responsibility to honor their parents with others who are well-suited to meet their needs at places appropriately equipped to support happy and healthy living, children actually allow the community to bestow levels of honor and respect far greater than was feasible or imaginable in the past. I invite you to contact us should you wish to learn more about how Seven Acres or The Medallion.