Helping Hands/Bichor Cholim
Adath Israel’s Helping Hands
For Adath Israel members undergoing or recovering from illness our volunteers provide support and resources by:
• Visiting people in hospitals, nursing homes, or in their own homes
• Making phone calls to congregants who are homebound
• Performing practical tasks such as shopping or running errands
• Calling those whose names are on the MeSheberakh list for healing prayers on Shabbat morning
• Helping congregants who are experiencing illness or facing surgery with person-to-person support
Let us know if we may visit you at home or in the hospital or help in any other way. We will contact you to plan together how we can best assist you.
The Misheberakh List
The list is recited every Shabbat morning, and is refreshed each month. We ask that you provide, if possible, the Hebrew and English names of the person who is ill and his or her mother.
Helping Hands Tips
Tips for Good Listening
• Be neutral, non-judgmental, and open-hearted.
• Reflect what you hear expressed and not how you would react.
• Listen between the lines to the feeling being voiced.
• Respond by saying, “that sounds hard”, or “you seem concerned?”
• Use open-ended questions of How? What? rather than Who? When? Why?
• Help the person expand; don’t mind-read or finish the other person’s sentence.
• Don’t minimize fears.
*These listening tips are from Rabbi Mychal Springer and Rabbi Pamela Wax.
Etiquette for Hospital and Nursing Home Visiting
• If possible, try to find out a patient’s or resident’s condition prior to entering the room so you are not taken by surprise by his or her appearance or state of health.
• At the same time, let the patient be the one to tell you about his or her ailments.
• Check in with nursing staff to ensure that it is an appropriate time to visit.
• Try not to visit during the early morning hours or during nursing shift changes, as these are times of high activity on hospital floors.
• Whenever a patient or resident is being seen by a doctor or receiving treatment from nursing staff, do not interrupt. Return at another time.
• Always knock before entering a patient’s or resident’s room.
• Be aware of your facial expressions. Keep a pleasant demeanor.
• Introduce yourself. State your name and what organization you are representing with your visit.
• Ask the patient or resident if he or she would like a visit.
• Ask the patient or resident if he or she would mind if you sat down.
• Don’t take it personally if someone is not in the mood for a visit. Always respect the patient’s or resident’s decision.
• Always be clear of what your role is when you visit someone. You are a friendly visitor. You are not visiting as a doctor, therapist or family member.
Reprinted from the Resource Materials for Bikur Cholim Visitors JBFCS/Bikur Cholim Coordinating Council.
Tips for Mindful Visiting
• It is not the job of the visitor to give advice or try to fix the situation by doing something. Allow the good and the bad aspects of life to simply be there without needing to do anything about them, without trying to fix the feelings or the situation. This, according to Rabbi Mychal Springer, is the challenge of bikkur holim, to simply be there and bear witness with another to whatever is taking place.
• Rather than cheering someone up, it can be very comforting and supportive to go with the person into the sadness that they are feeling, and allow them to be there, in that sad place, with you.
• Try to pray with or for the patient. The commandment of Bikkur Holim states that without prayer, the visit does not count. Don’t be afraid to take a risk, and invite a bikkur holim recipient to pray with us during our visits. Try to move beyond what is most safe for you, and allow your heart to touch the heart of the other person, to acknowledge that this life is never ordinary, to give thanks. When we allow our hearts to be open, or even to be broken, that is the moment when we can feel God’s response. If a formal prayer doesn’t seem to fit the situation, you may consider asking the sick person what he/she is praying for, and to create together a prayer out of that wish. Finally, it is always okay to tell the visitee that he/she is in our prayers if, for any reason, it is not comfortable to pray together.
Written by Barbara Goldman z”l, and Jeannie Blaustein
Bikkur Holim Do’s and Don’ts
• Call ahead before making a visit, to ensure that you’re going at a good time.
• Make a point of following the ill person’s lead in terms of conversation.
• Focus on really listening and being present. (This will make it easier to follow the ill person’s conversational lead and will help you channel any anxiety that the visit may be stirring up for you and make it easier to quiet your own thoughts.)
• Bring a psalm, a poem, or a Mi Sheberakh prayer to say out loud or silently at the end of the visit. (Pray within the ill person’s presence or, if he or she would be more comfortable, pray right after your visit.) (According to the tradition, a visit is not a visit unless we pray on the ill person’s behalf.)
• Avoid getting caught in the trap of giving easy answers or false assurances (e.g., “It will be okay.” Instead, try something like, “I hear that you’re scared,” or “I’m sad to see you in pain.”)
• Don’t put the ill person in the position of having to entertain you. Don’t be afraid of silence. (If you’re fully present and following the ill person’s lead, your presence and patience can convey interest and support).
• Don’t initiate conversation about the illness.
• Don’t comment on the ill person’s apartment or decor.
• Don’t sit on the ill person’s bed. (Instead, position yourself at a comfortable distance from the person, where he or she can easily see you without strain.)
• Don’t stay too long; ill people (especially in hospitals) are usually tired, and visits can be taxing if they’re prolonged.