Bringing the ‘Me’ Back to Life for the Elderly

The Ezer Mizion ‘One Wish’ program is in full swing.   Countless holocaust survivors residing in nursing home facilities have already benefited. The program attempts to meet the need of these precious elderly whose daily life often places them in a one-size-fits-all situation in which their individual past life, their specific interests and opinions have no place to flourish. Too often, the senior’s sense of self begins to wither and die. They have a name. They have a lifetime of past experiences.   But the ‘me’ slowly fades away and they become not much more than a room number.

Trained Ezer Mizion personnel visit each one, develop a relationship, share memories with them and eventually elicit a wish to re-visit a place of interest or former favorite activity. An album of pictures together with regular visits keep the memory of their Special Day alive, enabling them to focus on their unique identity.   

Raya was alone. Her children and grandchildren lived abroad. Like most people, Raya had friends. She even had one special friend. But time passed. They were both busy with their lives. And they drifted apart. Now, eons later, Raya is no longer busy. Through the conversations, she began to recall a friend she had been close to. Where does she live? Raya didn’t know.  What’s her name? She couldn’t recall. But the look on her face when she spoke of that special friend was enough to encourage her Ezer Mizion volunteer to probe further. A few clues but nothing conclusive. Until the volunteer had the idea of an address book. Perhaps she had one. Perhaps she could find it.  “Yes, I have one. But I don’t know where it is. It’s been so very long… !”

“Can I search?” asked the always optimistic Ezer Mizion volunteer.  It took hours. Never giving up. But there it was! Old, yellowed pages. Cover a faded green with pink flowers. A souvenir of a once-vibrant life. Line by line, they went through it. Was it…? No. Was it…? No. And then the shout of joy as visions of the past leaped up. “Henrietta, yes! It was Henrietta!” We weren’t at the finish line yet. Henrietta had to be located- not an easy job. But one fine morning, it all came together and there they were – Henrietta and Raya. Best friends of long ago. Sharing. Crying. Laughing. So many memories. So much to catch up on. So much joy at being together once again. The room seemed to glow with the sunshine of happiness.

C. spoke wistfully of the garden she had cultivated year after year – for forty years. Oh, how she missed that feeling of being as one with the natural world.  K. spoke of breathtaking scenic trips. The loveliness. The awesome beauty. Both were taken to Utopia Park, an aptly named enchanting tropical rain forest with thousands of orchids from around the world, tropical plants, a myriad of animals and even carnivorous plants. In C.’s words: “Only G-d can create something so beautiful!”

A survivor from Rumania didn’t ask for much.  Just part of what, for most of us is a regular task, hardly a blip in our emotional life. But for her it was monumental. It catapulted her back into her productive years when she was an integral part of the neighborhood. She asked for a trip to the supermarket. As she moved up and down the aisles in her wheelchair, her bag gradually filled with the choices she made plus a few gifts, courtesy of Ezer Mizion.

Ezer Mizion’s 1 Wish Program: Dear survivors of the holocaust, you are not forgotten.

https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html#tabs-6
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