Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Applying to Learn About Jewish End of Life Care

By Susan Esther Barnes

I recently filled out the application to attend the training for “Kol Haneshema: Jewish End of Life Care,” given by the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.

This isn’t a class you can take on a whim. It’s 40 hours of intensive training, and to participate you have to fill out a four-page-long application. Then, if your application passes muster, you get an interview. It’s only after the interview that you find out whether you’re going to get into the class.

I can understand why they do all the screening. I’m sure the last thing they need is people of the wrong temperament barreling into the Jewish Home and making the residents feel uncomfortable. Also, I suppose they don’t want to waste their time and effort training people who aren’t going to follow through once the class is over to actually visit people who are elderly and/or dying.

I found the application to be quite interesting, although one question struck me as a bit odd. It asks whether the applicant has ever attended a funeral. When I saw that I thought, “Everyone who’s applying is an adult, and most of us are probably at least in our 30’s or 40’s, so of course we’ve all attended a funeral at some point, right?”

It turns out I was wrong. I recently visited my 83-year-old mother, who informed me she has never been to a funeral. Go figure.

I was pleased to find I’ve already done most of the stuff they ask about in the application. Yes, I have been to a funeral. Several, in fact. Yes, I have spent time with someone who was very sick and/or dying. Yes, I have seen (even washed!) a dead body.

The application also asked questions that took some thought to answer, such as the effect that my experiences with serious illness have had on me, what kinds of situations or patients I think I’ll have the most difficulty working with, and why I’ve chosen this kind of volunteer work over others that are available.

I must have answered at least some of the questions right, since I have an interview scheduled on December 1, with the fabulous Rabbi Elliot Kukla. Stay tuned for what comes next.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if I could do it. I have a friend who volunteers in a hospice, responsible for a patient.
    When I visited a dying friend, I couldn't say "goodbye."