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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Ms’

The Children Of The Chronically Ill And Their Battle For Shidduchim

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Dear Ms. Novick,

 

I would like to thank you for your thoughtful column. The information you provide has helped me through the ups and downs of living with a spouse who had MS.

 

There is one issue I have not seen addressed – shidduchim of children whose parent has a chronic illness. My beautiful, intelligent daughter has been unable to get a date because, “your dad has MS.” I guess people take that to mean, “Your home is depressing.”

 

Do you know anyone or any resource to help our children? I am at wits end. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


A Well Spouse


 


 


 


Dear Well Spouse,

 

This is an extremely important issue and I thank you for suggesting it. I am glad my articles have been helpful to you.  I hope, with Hashem’s help, I can assist you in this matter as well.

 

You seemed to have raised two issues here. The first is the supposed detriment of dating and, potentially marrying, a person who has an ill parent. The second is the depression that is assumed to accompany the situation.

 

For many people, dealing with illness is something they will go to any lengths to avoid. And so, if a parent is ill, whether that illness may have a possible genetic correlation or not, is reason enough for some parents and shadchanim to negate a potential match. Yet if we look around us, we all know couples who are suffering from terrible illnesses with no family history of the disease. We also all know many people who have a disability or chronic illness whose children and grandchildren have no such problem.  “But why take a chance. There are more fish in the sea,” is the response I have heard from many parents who refuse to hear a shidduch with a family who is coping with illness.

 

            Using a microscope to examine the history of a potential spouse has become the norm. Parents of “perfect children” want only “perfect matches” for their children. But which of us truly have flawless children, and how many children really grow in homes where they have never experienced problems?  And is a child who has never had to deal with adversity better prepared for the world a young couple must face than one who has? Have the concepts of bashert and bitachon been totally thrown to the wayside when it comes to marrying off our children?

 

We all wish for our children joyous, anguish-free lives.  But is that really even possible? No one goes through life without facing difficulties – some illness, disagreement or hardships. It is the people who can handle difficulty, who aren’t scared off at the first sign of a problem that handle adversity more easily and efficiently and get their family through it relatively unscathed. And those are often the people with experience. They are often the children of a parent with chronic illness. 

 

We already do genetic testing for Tay-Sachs disease and, I believe nine or 10 other genetic diseases, through Dor Yeshorim. Perhaps it would be a good idea to extend this, if possible, to other diseases that have a known or suspected genetic component upon the request of families dealing with these illnesses. This might give those children of the chronically ill a better chance at dating, and not be eliminated because of what might be in their genes. Further, it will help us remember that not all illnesses have a genetic base.

 

Living in a home with illness can certainly lead to depression. But to assume it does in all cases is ridiculous. Today, depression can be handled successfully in many ways and does not have to be a lifestyle. When other methods fail, antidepressants can help us cope with life’s difficulties.  While I am not advocating their indiscriminate use, they have their place when needed, as does all medication that alleviates symptoms. If there is long term or short term depression in your home resulting from living with illness for many years, medication is definitely something to discuss with your doctor. If your home is depression-free, make sure to ask the references you give to shadchanim to mention that your home is a comfortable, happy place in order to offset the assumption that it is the opposite, even before the question is asked.  This is especially important when people are assuming that depression exists wherever there is chronic illness and may not even ask for verification for what they assume is true.

 

I would be grateful to hear from my readers about their thoughts and/or experiences when it comes to dating a person with an ill parent. My suspicion is that those who have married children of the chronically ill have a lot to teach us and share with shadchanim. I would also like to hear from shadchanim and get their point of view on setting up children like the daughter of the letter writer. 

 

Any shadchan or person wanting to contact the writer of the letter concerning her daughter can do so through me. I will happily forward your ideas.


 


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

A Letter To Seek Help For A Friend’s Mother, Coping With A Disabled Husband

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

 Dear Ms. Novick,  

 

I have been reading your column in The Jewish Press for quite a while and enjoy it very much. It has been very helpful.  For many years, my mother, a”h, lived with us while she was going blind from glaucoma and becoming demented from Alzheimer’s.  G-d bless my wonderful husband and family for helping to love and care for her.  She was nifteres last month.


 


A friend put me in touch with his mother, and it is about her that I am writing. I have never actually met her or her husband.  He has a host of medical issues, along with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.   She is suffering.  I asked if there is a support group in her area, and she said she had attended one, but it was a general, non-Jewish group, and did not jive with her Torah way of life.  Having attended an Alzheimer’s support group here, I totally can understand that. I did pick up a few “tips” at the meeting I had attended. The atmosphere and general way of thinking, however, was not compatible to my way of thinking.


 


My friend’s mother does live in a frum community, but apparently there is nothing available there.   She works, during which time her husband is left at home, and basically “does nothing.”  He is clinically depressed, has heart issues, and is sometimes paranoid. He hasn’t worked for a few years, is on disability and she is worried financially on top of everything else.   On the other hand, during the course of my one conversation with her she informed me that once a week, her husband can and still does teach a shiur (with the help of a family member). When their married children come to visit, it livens everyone up, and they do visit as often as they can. But she does not feel that she can “burden”them with her and her husband’s issues, as their children have young families and live at least a couple of hours away, if not more.


 


Can you advise me as to any direction to point her in?  I told her to feel free to call, because I know that just a listening ear is helpful – and I mean it – I so feel for people who give care.  I read a book once, called The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s (D. Troxel) which, as I remember, seemed to help a lot – the attitude was very upbeat. 


 


Any other book I had been referred to was so awful in approach. They were very depressing.  She told me, from what she picked up (two things) from our conversation was, that it was good to talk, and that she needed to accept the fact that some things would just not “get better or change.” Actually what I had tried to tell her, was that once a certain degree of acceptance occurs, that itself opens possibilities for good things to happen that are possible.


 I also recommended she call Ohel Family Services for a referral, since they are the only “group” I know about.  I told her that I would be writing you, as I don’t think she has easy access to the Internet.


 


I don’t want to say the wrong things.  I am reluctant to send her a book that I did like very much (Taking Care of Mom, Taking Care of Me, by Devorah Schloss) because although it’s so upbeat, all the relatives described were at the “end-of-life” situation!    My friend, B”H, seems at a totally different point. 


 


(She) is suffering because her husband is still relatively young, and all her hopes for him at his age seem to not only be dashed, but she feels overworked and, sometimes, abused -(emotionally and verbally). The money is tight, and she is worried (it) might run out very soon.


 


So here are two questions: what can I do or say to help (or not do or say), and can you offer any referrals?


 


Thanks so much for reading this and I will look forward to hearing from you. 


 
Sincerely,


Mrs. D


 

 

Dear Mrs. D.,

 

Thank you so much for your letter. I am sorry for the recent loss of your mother a”h.


 


I’m very glad that your family was so helpful when it came to caring for your mother. It is obvious from your letter that your journey as a caregiver has taught you a great deal. Perhaps more than you are even aware of. Our experience as well spouses or care givers for family members, is a tremendous resource. Your willingness to share it not only turns a difficult experience into something positive but it makes you a mentor. All this is something you need to be proud of. It is also clear that you have already been a big help to your friend. You raised some very common and interesting questions in your letter. I will try to answer them the next several columns.



Sincerely,


Ann


 


I can be reached at annnovick@hotmail.com

A Lighthouse Of Reason In A Dark Shidduch Sea

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Dear Readers: I want to share a letter I received this week giving me hope that there are some level heads out there in the shidduch world, and that not everyone is caught up in the hysteria and/or ga’avah (arrogance) that accompanies a suggestion for a date.




The letter was in answer to my previous column, in which I pointed out that the level of “checking” into a prospective shidduch has gotten way out of hand, as has the “criteria” used to assess the boy’s or girl’s “worthiness.” Case in point: A fine young man in his mid-20′s was asked the names of his high school yeshiva rebbes- which he readily supplied.



However, despite a glowing report from the various rebbes and his chavrusah, etc., the girl’s parents decided that they needed further information and wanted the names of his yeshiva ketanah teachers – even though over a dozen years had passed and he was now an adult.



In another shidduch scenario, a young lady’s reference was asked how she would rate the girl’s communication skills (perhaps the boy’s mother wanted to know if she would be able to decipher baby talk so the future eineklach would not cry unnecessarily). In yet another case, a reference was asked how she would assess the sincerity of the girl’s davening. The startled but indignant reference stated that she was too engrossed in her own davening to notice!


I ruefully suggested in my column that if one’s child had successfully passed the intense scrutiny, inquiries and investigations launched by a prospective date’s family, a mazel tov might just be in order.

 



Dear Ms. Kupfer:


I have been following the shidduch crisis in all the Jewish papers in the last year or so. We live about 400 miles from New York City. Needless to say, I see the situation from another perspective. Of course, everything is subjective.


We have three married children who met their spouses in New York. We did not check out future sons- and daughters-in-law and/or their parents. Baruch Hashem, they are all happy. After raising our children in the Torah way by sending them to day school, we allowed them to make their own decisions. We respected their judgment. By the time they are grown, hopefully parents have instilled in their children Jewish values – and they should back off and let their children decide (I am not talking about extreme situations).


Judging people according to rigid and superficial categories, such as whether the “other family” serves on paper plates, linen or plastic tablecloths, the mother’s (or father’s) weight and when that person was toilet-trained (don’t laugh, I heard it!) breaks down communication – ensuring that there is no room for flexibility.


Parents who meddle too much should be told to respect their children and stay out, at least in the initial process. Our son met his wife through a girl whom he dated twice. One never knows how one can meet his or her bashert.


Young people (and their parents, if they are involved) should be looking for a person who demonstrates kindness, commitment, responsibility, honesty, integrity, respect to parents and older people, sense of humor, self-esteem, flexibility and, if possible, the ability to find out how a person handles his or her temper and disappointment.


Our last single son is a graduate student who is looking for a frum and independent girl who will be able to stand on her own two feet. (In fact, we made sure that our daughter had a profession, too.) He is talented and was considering staying in a yeshiva. But who will support him and his future family?


Those who wish to sit and study at the expense of others pay the price, in every sense of the word (and ultimately so do all of us). They mostly stay immature, depending on their parents’ financial support and just don’t grow up in a healthy way.


Since the parents pay for their adult children’s livelihood, some feel entitled to dictate to them where to live, how to space their children, how to dress them and what to name the grandchildren, among other demanding expectations. The adult children’s decision is often under a magnifying glass, and many times they are criticized about minor things. All this stress causes shalom bayis tension.


Now back to your article. Where do those young girls come from, wanting to stay home and have a husband who only learns? Are they realistic? Those who only study will not have earned money to get enough Social Security or any money for retirement, and will not benefit from all that goes along with the satisfaction of working and supporting one’s family. Having said that, I have no objection to parents occasionally helping out financially.


May we soon witness an improvement in this situation.


A Concerned Reader

Caring For Our Seniors And Holocaust Survivors (Part 4)

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

A Practical Application

 


In the Jan. 4 and 11 issues I reprinted some triggers that may spark awful flashbacks for Holocaust Survivors. When confronted with these triggers, their reaction might cause them to behave in a way that non-Jewish or unknowledgeable caregivers and even relatives might not understand. That is why it is so important for anyone seeking to work with, or be supportive of, this population to understand what these triggers might be. In this way they can either avoid them or help the person cope if they can’t be avoided. I have received several letters that addressed this very topic.

 

 


Dear Ms. Novick,

 

I read your column every week even though I’m neither chronically ill nor a well spouse. (And I hope I never qualify as either one!)

 

I read with interest, your column re: Holocaust Survivor reactions. I live in New York City and am a professional musician. While my knowledge is probably much less than qualified therapists, doctors, social workers etc., I thought the following might interest you.

 

If I am working a job before an audience of the Jewish elderly (I play a lot of single engagements and parties, club dates etc.) and I even hear a hint of a European accent, or G-d forbid, see numbers on someone’s arm, I never play Viennese waltzes. I also try to stay away from German/Austrian composers, even those who died long before the Holocaust.


Also, just a thought… if I was a social director, I would think twice about taking a group of senior citizens to see a Wagnerian opera or even a show like Cabaret, or the Sound of Music, because of where and when the last two take place.


Rosanne Soifer

 


Dear Ann,

 

I had just finished reading your article on “triggers” when I received a call from a very upset friend who works in an office in her home. She had just seen two weekly clients, a mother and daughter. She told me that her cleaning lady had left her basement door open accidentally and her two dogs ran into her office, barking.

 

“I understand people are afraid of dogs. That’s why I keep mine downstairs.” She told me. “But I’ve never seen a reaction like this. The daughter was cowering on the couch, screaming. The mother was beyond fright and began kicking my dogs.”

 

She said that what disturbed her most, was that the women didn’t stop kicking her dogs and screaming (causing the dogs to bark louder and snarl) even when she told them to stop, and took hold of her dogs and told them that the dogs wouldn’t harm them. The daughter just kept screaming after she took the dogs away.

 

My friend just didn’t understand this overreaction.

 

Having just read about dogs being one of the “triggers” I thought the mother might have very well been a survivor. She probably saw people attacked, mutilated and killed by dogs that were trained to do just that. Any one experiencing that first-hand, or hearing about it from a parent, would easily react in the way she described.

 

When I told her this, her anger and confusion at her clients vanished. In fact she felt badly about the incident and vowed to be more careful with her dogs. Before these clients come again, she told me she would double-check that the dogs could not get out of the basement.


A.

 

 


Dear Ms. Novick,

 

Thank you for the articles and list of triggers. I am a nurse dealing with the older population. I have experienced an interesting contradiction that I’d like to share with your readers. If I wear my white coat when I am working with Holocaust survivors, I have noticed they get agitated. If I don’t wear my white coat with other seniors, they don’t think I’m a nurse. My solution is to keep the white coat on a hook in my office and use my judgment about when to wear it and when not to. I know this may sound like a silly nothing, but I have noticed it made a big difference with the senior population I treat.


N.

 

Whether we are professionals, family members, neighbors or a young adult doing chesed; whether we are Jewish or not, it is important to be aware of the history that has had – and continues to have – such an enormous impact on the older population in our midst. It is our responsibility to understand how what we may consider every day occurrences, can cause terrible anxiety in another. It is incumbent on us to not only be aware of these triggers, but to plan practical ways of avoiding them or working around them. We are, after all, “our brother’s keeper.”

 

You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com.

Embracing The Short Leash

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007


         On October fifth, my article called “Choking on a Short Leash” was in the Jewish Press. The article discussed the need for compromise (as we age and/or are alone) with our children who may become very protective and want to monitor our whereabouts. Finding a middle ground with our protective children, without losing our independence, can be very difficult. The compromise, though livable for both sides, may be satisfying to neither.

 

         Last week, I shared a letter from a mother who wanted to call the whole compromise off as her children were not holding up their part of the deal. She had agreed to call when she was going out at night, only to find her children not bothering to pick up the phone or leave the answering machine accessible to her when she did call. She wanted to just go back to being independent and not be considerate of her children’s fears because of their insensitively toward her needs.

 

         This week, one of my readers presents a very different perspective.

 

 

Dear Ms. Novick,

 

         I have been a fan of your articles since you began writing. These articles have been moving and poignant (as was the Wife’s Dilemma), as well as informative (as with the information on banking, long term care insurance, etc.). I have agreed with most of your opinions, but I now feel compelled to reply to your recent article, “Choking on a Short Leash.”

 

         It seems that from Sydney’s activities, she is still a young woman. I am sure that she constantly lived with “waiting for the other shoe to drop” while her husband was alive. Her daughter must have been very young when her father took ill. How much more so did this “waiting for the other shoe to drop” affect her! I can perfectly understand her concern for her mother’s well being. While the concern for the surviving parents probably affects well children more, given the precarious times in which we live, everyone is concerned for loved ones.

 

         Sydney should not view this as being treated like an irresponsible child. A two-second phone call before Sydney left home, informing her daughter of her plans, could have saved the daughter hours of anguish, especially since Sydney was gone for five hours, her car was parked in front of her apartment, and she was not answering her cell. Who would not panic given these circumstances? Did Sydney use role reversal and think of what her reaction would have been if she had come to her daughter’s home and found the same set of circumstances? Why would Sydney want to cause her daughter one more second of “agmas nefesh,” knowing what she grew up with?

 

         Since we live in the time of instant communication, as well as constant danger, both Sydney and her daughter should have an understanding that while not wanting to control each other’s lives, a simple and fast phone call before embarking on any adventure would save the other a lot of heartache. I am sure that Sydney would agree to that.


Mae


 


 


Dear Mae,

 

         Thank you for your comments. I think you raise an interesting point and I certainly agree with you from the daughter’s perspective. However, I think you underestimate Sydney’s desperate need not to be accountable after so many years of having to let everyone know of her whereabouts, in case of an emergency with her chronically ill husband. Never being able to leave your home without telling someone where you are going and when you will return, always being on call if you will, for years and years, takes its toll. For Sydney, her newly found freedom may be as important as breathing and just as hard to give up.

 

         In a perfect world Sydney would just make the two-minute call, her daughter always ready for the information and no one would have any emotional fallout. But we are all products of our experience, and our emotions rule how we feel about what we do. To Sydney, being totally accountable to her daughter is something she (and I suspect many of us) cannot live with.

 

         And what about Sydney’s right to privacy? She may not wish to share with her daughter everywhere she is going. She may not want to deal with the inevitable questions of “Why are you going there?” or “Why do you need to do that?” Imagine if she is seeing a therapist and wants to keep it private. Or she may even have a date and feels that her daughter may not be ready for her mother to date. As an adult, she just may not want to go down the slippery slope of accounting for all her whereabouts.

 

         Put yourself in Sidney’s shoes. Do you tell your children everywhere you go and why? Would you want to? There is no perfect solution to the problem, and that is why I recommended a compromise. Perhaps if Sydney’s daughter never asks her where she is going, Sidney will not lose her sense of privacy and control over her life and be more comfortable with telling her daughter each time she leaves.

 

         But is that a realistic expectation? In the end, Sidney and her daughter will have to use trial and error to find a solution that both woman can live with. This solution must allow Sidney to maintain a sense of being in control over her own life and her daughter the feeling of knowing her mother is safe.

 

         What will work for Sidney and her daughter may not be something you would be comfortable with in your own life. The one thing that is true for all of us as we age is that we do need to reach a compromise between our children’s needs for us and our own needs for ourselves. And that compromise will probably change as we continue to age and our health needs change. Let’s toast the golden years.

 

         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/embracing-the-short-leash/2007/11/14/

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