Being Present in the Moment to Care

By Bill Appleby, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Care Victoria

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We must care – it’s in our name and integral to our mission. We need to make sure we are always present in the moment to care. At the end of the day – it’s what we do!

At Jewish Care we are blessed with 870 committed staff and 500 volunteers who positively impact people’s lives. Our commitment to the community we serve is to purposefully live the values of family, kindness, charity and respect in all that we do.

Many of the people that we support live with impaired cognition. We have read much about this disease epidemic and the devastating effects on individuals and their families.

Caring for a loved one with dementia is often a continuous series of grief experiences as you watch memories disappear and skills erode.

Initially, this process can go unnoticed until difficulties impact across all areas of daily life. For both the person and their loved ones, this often produces all sorts of emotions including a sense of loss, confusion, anger and sadness.

Being a nurse myself for many years, I often ask what it would feel like to start forgetting members of my family, the purpose of my trip to the kitchen, the day of the month, how to dress and bathe myself; or indeed ‘who am I?’ Who will make sure that I maintain my dignity through what is a cruel disease process? Who can I trust?

As an organisation, we are entrusted with this enormous but privileged responsibility.

We need to remain absolutely steadfast in our aspirations to live our Jewish values, and to be responsive and respectful of the uniqueness of every person that we support. Dignified care and the unconditional regard of all people receiving services at Jewish Care are central to meeting our responsibility of care.

Ilsa Hampton, CEO of Meaningful Ageing Australia talks about the fact that these ‘activities of daily living’ can ‘function as the building blocks from which staff, volunteers and loved ones can be truly present to each older person’s need for a sense of meaning, purpose and connectedness. Even if that person can no longer speak, or is communicating in ways we find challenging (such as expressions related to dementia), if we frame the care relationship as exactly that – a relationship with a person who has a whole life story and is still fully human, those activities of daily survival (living) can be transformed into enablers of daily living’.

I believe that we have the right people at Jewish Care entrusted with this most significant and personal responsibility.

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