Local | Senior Lifestyle

JFCS workshops give Holocaust survivors from Russia end-of-life guidance

L-R: Iosif Beskin, Gregory Tselnik, and Raisa Moroz examine advance directive documents at a workshop. (Courtesy Raisa Moroz)

This summer, Jewish Family & Children’s Services conducted a series of workshops on advance directives and ethical wills for the 40 Russian-speaking Holocaust survivors in the Tucson community. Nearly half attended.

“It is not in Russian culture to talk about final days or what would happen with a person if he or she gets very ill,” says Raisa Moroz, JFCS Holocaust survivors program manager,  who facilitated the programs in Russian. “It took me about five years to be able to talk about it with people who are much older than I am. I took a few workshops myself to understand and accept the concept of advance directives. We selected the Five Wishes program [for advance directives] because it is in Russian and English; it is well presented and somewhat understandable for people.”

The Five Wishes approach discusses and documents care and comfort choices, connects families, communicates with healthcare providers, and shows what it means to care for one another as a community.

“Writing an ethical will is an opportunity to examine our lives, to notice what we hold as precious and meaningful at the core of our beings,” Moroz says. “What are the values that we have treasured in our living?  Who are the people who have shown us the way?  How have our mistakes shaped and enlivened us?  What are the great questions we have asked in our lives?  What are the answers we have discovered? Writing an ethical will is a process of life review, celebration, and legacy.”

An advance health care directive is a legal document recording your health care wishes now and appointing another person as your medical decision maker, in case you are unable to make decisions for yourself in the future. “We answer questions, such as what is an advance health care directive, why do I need it, what happens if I do not have directives and become unable to make decisions myself, and how I can revoke the directives,” Moroz adds.

“Some people found the workshop very important. Some who are working on their advance directives find it very difficult to choose who will be their agent to make decisions if they are not able to do so,” Moroz says. “Some people don’t even want to think about what will happen if they get very ill or die. They believe that their children will decide for them.”

There are many more elderly, Russian-speaking community members in Tucson, Moroz says. Ongoing assistance in completing the documents remains available. For more information, contact Moroz at rmoroz@jfcstucson.org.