Contemplative Caregiving (NYT, 1-11-13)

This article is from a recent “New Old Age” blog in the New York Times.  It’s about contemplative caregiving — an approach advocated by Jennifer Block, who is a former director of the well-known Zen Hospice project in San Francisco.  Here are a few highlights from the short transcript provided by the NYT of the interview with Ms. Block:

“People are for the most part unprepared for caregiving. They’re either untrained or unable to trust their own instincts. They lack confidence as well as knowledge. By confidence, I mean understanding and accepting that we don’t know all the answers ­ what to do, how to fix things.”

“Also, we live in a fast-paced, demanding world that says don’t sit still — do something. But people receiving care often need most of all for us to spend time with them. When we do that, their mortality and our grief and our helplessness becomes closer to us and more apparent.”

“Another skill is to become aware of how much we receive as well as give in caregiving. Caregiving can be really gratifying. It’s an expression of our values and identity: the way we want the world to be. So, I try to teach people how this role benefits them. Such as learning what it’s like to be old. Or having a close, intimate relationship with an older parent for the first time in decades. It isn’t necessarily pleasant or easy. But the alternative is missing someone’s final chapter, and that can be a real loss.”

“I think every caregiver needs to have their own caregiver — a
therapist or a colleague or a friend, someone who is there for them and with whom they can unburden themselves.”

You can find the full NYT article here:

New Old Age: Caring and Coping
New York Times
Family Relationships
Taking a Zen Approach to Caregiving
By Judith Graham
January 11, 2013, 6:52 am

For further info, check out Ms. Block’s website ( and her new SF-based organization, Beyond Measure School for Contemplative Care (