Since many patients who receive hospice care realize that they may be living out their last days, a number of them often seek a deeper connection to spirituality and religion. For Jewish patients under the care of a nondenominational hospice service, the process of forging that bridge may prove difficult, since nurses and social workers may not be well-versed in Jewish traditions and end-of-life beliefs.
For the past two years, however, the Jewish Family and Children's Service's Jewish Hospice Network of Greater Philadelphia has been assisting local hospices in learning about Jewish perspectives on death, bereavement and counseling. They also provide a rabbi for chaplaincy work.
"Our mission is to provide holiness and hope into what can otherwise be a very difficult process," said Rabbi Elisa Goldberg, director of the Joan Grossman Center for Chaplaincy and Healing, a service of JFCS.
The newest program member is the Keystone Home Health and Hospice Services in Wyndmoor, which joined in April.
According to David Traupman, vice president of communications and special projects at Keystone, 15 percent of its 100 or so patients are Jewish. He hopes that the additional training, education and knowledge will prove to be an asset in treating Jewish patients and their families.
"People see a need," he continued. "There is a such a large Jewish population in the Greater Philadelphia area. It's important to be able to have all the staff and volunteers be able to speak to and understand end-of-life issues for the Jewish faith."
Other area hospices that are members of the JFCS network include: Abington Memorial Hospital Hospice and Home Health Services; the Hospice of Philadelphia of the Visiting Nurse Association; Life Choice Hospice; and Holy Redeemer Home Care and Hospice Service.