A Busy Week Serving Survivors and Seniors

July 31, 2018
By Rita Clancy

Last week brought with it some extraordinarily inspiring moments in the Older Adult Services program. In some ways, it was a typical week, as it’s not unusual for us to offer a width breadth of programs all within a few days. I thought I’d share a few highlights.

During the week, more than fifty Holocaust survivors joined together in our Berkeley and Walnut Creek offices for our monthly Café Europa gatherings. In addition to enjoying lunch and each other’s company, they heard from inspiring speaker, writer, and political activist, Anna Rabkin, who survived the Holocaust in hiding. In the 1960s, Anna and her husband, Marty migrated to the political hotbed of Berkeley, where she eventually was elected to the office of the City Auditor. She touched us all with her story, sharing how her experience as a refugee makes her feel passionate about the refugee crisis of today.

Also during the week, we held a special program for Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union at a local senior housing development that is home to a number of these survivors. The program featured a palliative care physician discussing sensitive and critical issues of advanced care planning, also educating people about the scope of palliative care, hospice care, and the differences between them. Talking about end-of-life issues is particularly sensitive for survivors, as it can bring up past trauma and fears. Many simply avoid addressing it. This leaves many critical decisions unresolved and places a heavy burden on family members as they try to navigate the complex end-of-life process with their loved ones. By providing information in a way that acknowledges and honors these issues, we are able to help survivors create clear and respectful plans for their end of life. We hope that the thirteen new attendees will now participate in our other Russian-language programs for survivors that we hold at our Walnut Creek office on a regular basis.

Then on Thursday, our Older Adult Services team had an informative and passionate training with Dr. Lael Duncan, the medical director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California. We worked on developing tools and strategies to convey information about advanced health care planning to older adults of varying cultural backgrounds. We are proud to join with other organizations to inform, honor, and empower people in clarifying individual preferences about how they wish to live and die. We see first-hand the inequities and service gaps for people needing access to quality palliative care, which can do so much to enhance quality of life, while also saving money. This win-win proposition will require ongoing advocacy in the years ahead.

I am grateful that I get to experience these moments of inspiration, feeling honored to be part of improving the lives of people as they age.