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Pause for Thought - Take care of the elderly

Listen to our very own, Miriam Arkush Lorie, Rabbi-inTraining's latest Radio 2 Pause for Thought with Zoe Ball here:

Here's the transcript:

“Come in if you’re beautiful” calls a voice from the bed, and I tentatively step in, asking if I qualify. The elderly lady lying in bed is herself utterly beautiful, with dark wise eyes, floaty white hair and a wry smile.

You see Zoe, for about six months, I’ve been a Jewish hospital chaplain. Chaplaincy started off as a requirement for my rabbi training course, but I’ve fallen in love with my Thursday morning visiting. However much I’m supposed to be there for the patients - and of course it is all about them - I honestly leave the hospital feeling enriched and lifted by the stories I’ve heard, and often the tears, prayers and vulnerability shared.

Being a rehab hospital, most of the patients are elderly, and the combination of age and recovering from an illness or accident is a particularly difficult cocktail. These wonderful people face huge uncertainty about their life after hospital.

And yet they generously share their life stories and perspectives. Among those I’ve met were a retired teacher, caterer, professor, doctor and artist. They’ve offered wise titbits like “always keep learning”, “kindness is the most important religious principle” and “give your grandkids a tenner for each birthday rather than a present so noone complains about unfairness!”

And sometimes the visit is more sobering, with tears, with fear, or tense conversations with family about whether the patient is headed home or to a care home next.

As the Psalm goes, “Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me!” Old age is a vulnerable time, and we need society as a whole to pull together to take care of the elderly. This could look like going through the checks and training to become a hospital chaplain or volunteer, or simply looking out for an elderly neighbour or relative.

Because if my experience is anything to go by, there is so much wisdom and depth to be found in the white haired souls that we’ll all become one day. And really, the lady who called out to me and told me I was beautiful enough to come in… well the beauty was all hers.

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