A Case Study
A hospital chaplain contacted JSCN after reading the following article.
We were able to give him the sources of information and support that he needed.
A sympathetic Jewish environment for elderly parents can be difficult to find. Here’s one person’s story…
“Following the death of our father in 1995, our mother Sheila, displayed obsessional behaviour and was quite confused. After a few years struggling with this we (I am the eldest of three daughters) arranged for Sheila to be admitted to a residential home in Enfield.
Mum deteriorated and began to go through various stages of disintegration and confusion. Mum was moved to a nursing home in Highgate after about six years of living in the residential home, and we finally moved her into a Jewish Care Home, Lady Sarah Cohen House, in Friern Barnet where she remained for the final three years of her life until her death in 2012.
“Mum and Dad were culturally traditionally Jewish and had been active members of their local orthodox synagogue in South Woodford, but weren’t very observant.
“Whilst Sheila was in Highgate Nursing Home, we wondered about the feasibility of moving her to Suffolk, to try to reduce some of the driving for me (between Ipswich, or initially Woodbridge and North London). We made enquiries of several nursing homes in the Ipswich and surrounding areas (in approximately 2005), but found that the lack of other residents who were Jewish meant that the staff had no idea of Jewish practices. I felt that Mum would feel very isolated, being the only Jewish person in the home, with no opportunities to attend Jewish services for key festivals and nobody amongst the staff team who understood her cultural requirements. Judaism being an intensely social religion, is almost impossible to observe alone.
“Lady Sarah Cohen Home, being a Jewish Care home, trains the staff in dietary requirements and possible life experiences of Jewish residents (they may have been survivors of the Holocaust), and the cycle of festivals that make up the Jewish year and traditions that go along with this. The staff are also trained in the Jewish approach to death and procedure when a Jewish person dies (ie they will traditionally be buried within 24 hours). They have a lot of entertainment drawing on the rich traditions of Jews living in the North London area, including singing in Yiddish.
“We decided to abandon our search for a suitable place for our mother in Suffolk, as nowhere would compare to the services provided by nursing homes that cater specifically for Jewish people. These are only available in areas with a high density of Jewish people, such as North London. Our mother spent the final 13 years of her life in residential or nursing care, and she did not speak for the last six years of her life. We were comforted to know that she could attend weekly Sabbath services in Lady Sarah Cohen Home which has a synagogue on the premises. Services are adapted to be suitable for their residents.”
Suffolk Liberal Jewish Community
“Throughout the 20th century there was no organised Jewish community in Suffolk, however in the early 2000’s a group of us got together to provide services and some social events for local Jewish people.
“As the only feasible form of community was Liberal Judaism, we adopted this style and are now known as the Suffolk Liberal Jewish Community.
“Last year (2016) a member of our community, GW, told us that her mother (DH) had been admitted to a local Suffolk care home. GW explained that her mother was very confused and frail. We (as members of Suffolk Liberal Jewish Community), offered to run a short Sabbath service in the home, the home were in agreement with this and were going to make space available.
Sadly this hasn’t happened yet as on the date set to do this DH was too ill to permit it. No doubt we will try again.”
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of its author Beverley Levy.
Originally appeared in Suffolk Healthwatch