by Sarah Thomson
Each second Sunday of the month, caregivers meet via Zoom to share communal understanding of the daily tasks, emotions, and challenges that the role invokes. Under the pastoral care of Temple Israel senior Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein, the group invites a spirit of community necessary for navigating the peaks and valleys of caring for a loved one. At a time where so many feel neglected, lost, and weary due to Covid-19, caregivers are especially vulnerable to burnout, fatigue, and isolation with loved ones at home or in facilities. Caregiving for many is a round-the-clock job, and most would express that the emotional toll is far more difficult than any physical labor.
Sarah Thomson, the founder of Caregiver Café, began her caregiving journey at age 30 when her husband of five years had a massive stroke and entered a nursing home in 2014. The importance of her Jewish faith and fellow caregivers’ wisdom was something she hopes to foster for others with Caregiver Café. The group initially started with three caregivers, including Thomson, and has grown into an anticipated monthly event for the current members.
Each meeting begins with a blessing from Rabbi Greenstein then opens for individual sharing in a safe, confidential environment. Attendees are welcome to come and listen or observe—the group does not require more participation than any person feels comfortable with. The experience each member brings is invaluable and in this multi-generational collective, the community and shared understanding in grief and love is a welcome respite in the month. The hour is a time for renewal, replenishment, inner strength, and encouragement needed for any stage in the caregiving journey.
The experience each member brings is invaluable and in this multi-generational collective, the community and shared understanding in grief and love is a welcome respite in the month.
Caregiver Café is wholeheartedly a Jewish space. Members share the importance of their faith in helping them survive the years of caring for a loved one. Jewish values and wisdom, from ancient Torah Parshas to more modern sources, such as the works of Rabbi Steve Leder, give meaning and purpose to even the most tedious of daily tasks. Many in the group express finding a simple, humble holiness in caring for another human in such an intimate and visceral capacity. Joy, no matter how great or small, is in the quotidian.
Anyone who cares for a family member or friend is invited to join. The individual circumstances of each member may differ, but the emotional and practical aspects of caregiving remain universal. Someone who has cared for a spouse for 20 years has the same experiences that another person feels after only a few weeks.
Despite the difficulties caregivers experience, Caregiver Café remains a positive and uplifting community. Members express relief and joy each month as the meeting comes to a close, and a familial bond organically developed as the months have passed. The group continues to meet via Zoom for convenience and availability, as many cannot leave their loved ones alone for extended periods. Caregiving is often a silent and lonely position. Caregiver Café allows a space to feel seen, heard, understood, and loved.
If you are interested in attending the next virtual Caregiver Café or if you have any questions, please email Sarah Thomson at firstname.lastname@example.org.