September 24, 2012–Holocaust survivors who are facing advanced illness and/or end of life are a unique patient population with particular needs and challenges. Unfortunately, many health care professionals are not sufficiently aware of or knowledgeable about the lingering effects of Holocaust trauma on the survivors, and therefore they lack the tools to deal compassionately with this population and their families.
Targum Shlishi is supporting an initiative of MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care, in New York, to create resources to help train clinicians (social workers, case workers, chaplains, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, home health aides) to deal more effectively and compassionately with Holocaust survivors at the end of life. There are estimated to be between thirty and thirty-five thousand Holocaust survivors in the New York metropolitan area, many of whom are coping with serious illnesses. The survivors and their families can pose unique challenges for clinicians.
“Holocaust survivors may experience flashbacks based on their traumatic experience. This can be viewed by clinicians as psychosis, agitation, or severe depressive disorders. When professionals are educated about emotional triggers for Holocaust survivors, it allows them to deliver care in ways that are sensitive to their experience,” explains Toby Weiss, MJHS’s director of Cultural Diversity and Jewish Programming.
MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care is working to develop an instructional guide for facilitators and a workbook for participants to be used in facilitator-led trainings for clinicians (either traditional classroom or webinar format). The organization conducted a research study to help understand the attitudes of survivors about end-of-life care and areas of care that can be improved by educating clinicians and professional caregivers about the Holocaust experience. In addition, MJHS held an extremely successful education program for clinicians and professional caregivers in 2011 and 2012 and is now building on that program with these written resources, which will make this material available to a wide audience of clinicians.
“This is a critically important project and one that is long overdue,” notes Raquel Rubin, co-director of Targum Shlishi. “Our goal in supporting MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care’s work in developing these resources is to reach as many healthcare workers as quickly as possible so that the remaining Holocaust survivors and their families can receive end-of-life care that is appropriate for them and that is respectful.”
About MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care
MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care is a non-for-profit organization serving New York City and Nassau County. It is the largest hospice and palliative care program in New York State and the largest Jewish hospice in the region. MJHS is rooted in Jewish values and traditions, although it is not a religious organization and has patients of all faiths, cultures, and ethnicities. MJHS has created unique, culturally specific end-of-life care programs to serve different populations, including Jewish patients. For further information visit its website at http://www.mjhs.org/.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’sinitiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.