Do you remember learning how to swim? In your panic, you may have tried to fight the water, thrashing about and soon finding that it didn’t work. ‘Relax,’ said the instructor. ‘Take slow strokes. Trust me. You can do it. True, it’s different. You’re not used to moving in water. But it really can be done. Just don’t fight it.
‘I had been fighting it,’ says Yaakov. ‘Not the water but something else. Something much more scary. And there was no instructor to encourage me. I was all alone, or so I thought, too terrified to face it. Too traumatized to seek help. The woman I had married, the mother of my children, had metamorphosed into …into. I couldn’t even say the word. I was fighting it, trying to make believe it wasn’t there. Then one day I did what i should have done months ago. I called Ezer Mizion’s Mental Health Division. They understood immediately. I felt validated. I felt supported. I was no longer alone. They opened my eyes and helped me understand that accepting the reality and ‘going from there’ is not only possible but the only option that will allow us to continue living our lives. “Thanks to Ezer Mizion, I started dealing with my situation, both on an individual basis and in a group framework. I received the tools and strength I needed in order to cope. To people who are in my position, I want to say: We did not choose these ‘gifts.’ Hashem chose them for us. He gives us the gifts and He also gives us the strength to deal with the situation. Whoever thinks he can escape reality and conceal it is mistaken. Ezer Mizion is my light in this saga. They help me achieve a better reality. They have shown me that it is possible to deal with my challenges in a better way.
A web of relationships, tightly woven over decades. Strengthened with love and caring. Expanding in every direction. Ever increasing… more and more. Until one day when the center threads begin to fray. Eroded by dementia. Continue reading Holding Tight
We all have met up, at some time or other, with people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Seeing their inability to function independently is frightening. We look at them and their family members with compassion. But that’s them. We are we. We are not members of that club. The Dementia Club. We chuckle a bit the next time we forget our keys but we know it’s normal. Certainly not a sign of the D-word.
And then one day, Chaya, a perfectly normal woman, your neighbor, the one you went shopping with a couple of weeks ago. The one who helped you out your washing machine broke. That neighbor whom you’ve shared your woes in raising your kids as you both waited for their school bus each morning – she said something strange. It wasn’t the first time. You glanced up at her and were shocked to see that her face looked different – confused, helpless. Continue reading Dementia: Us and Them
Malka* was enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee. Lunches were made for tomorrow. The laundry was in the drier and Malka’s father had gone to bed early. She was about to reach for something to read, a rare luxury, when the bell rang. It was after eleven. Who could that be? Coffee forgotten, Malka’s heart began to flutter. She pressed the intercom button and, her voice trembling, asked who it was. The voice was hesitant, a bit embarrassed. A neighbor was just coming home from evening prayers and…She ran to open the door and there stood the neighbor with her father, dressed in pajamas, barefoot and looking very confused. Continue reading Alzheimer’s: Color Me Black.
It’s frightening. You feel helpless. Your mother who took care of you as a child has become a child herself. And it is you who must care for her now. Not just physical care. That would be difficult but still easier to handle. Now she needs you to guide her, to explain things like she did for you when you were small. To tell her again and again and again what she seemed to know yesterday. To guard her from danger – from a hot stove, from busy streets. And like a small child, she doesn’t want to be guided. She may lash out in fury. Not unlike you did at age four. But unlike a small child, she is not gradually maturing. It gets worse each day. Continue reading When Mommy Becomes a Child
This journey of mine into the heart of the Ezer Mizion world enters its eighth week. Every week, I reveal another chapter here, in our little corner. So far, we have only touched on a small fraction of the sweeping empire of activity.
Throughout this ongoing overview, during which I have met up with the people at work and have seen the various projects in action, I cannot help asking myself one question – a rather frightening one: What if all this did not exist? These are not government systems under official auspices. They are complementary, civilian, alternative systems. They are the product of private initiatives, supported by donations. They are a bonus that our civilian society is privileged to have at its disposal and that are so basic and self-understood!
Question: What does a family do when their loved one is stricken with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia?
The medical establishment will do its part to the best of its ability (in this case, that is easy enough: to inform the family that there is nothing to do…). But what’s next? How do you deal with a new reality in which a father or grandfather gradually loses his awareness and becomes helpless and disconnected, while his body remains whole and healthy? How do you protect him? How do you relate to him? How do you bear the pain and frustration? What do you do?
You turn to Ezer Mizion. And what do you do in situations that are not quite so miserable, when you simply reach a stage where you are compelled to assist a parent or other relative who is gradually losing his independence and leaning on the care of others?
You turn to Ezer Mizion.
There, families of Alzheimer’s patients find their first hope for redemption from their impossible situation. They are presented with a course of action that ends up easing not only their burden, but the life of the patient himself. This takes place at the Organization’s Alzheimer’s Support Center, serving very many families in Israel.
This work is only a small part of the comprehensive system Ezer Mizion operates for the benefit of seniors and their families. Here, these precious elderly people, who initiated and established and exerted efforts and lovingly prepared everything for those who are now compelled to care for them and assist them – are given the special attention they have earned. A huge division of Ezer Mizion pools within it the spectrum of services needed by the senior and his family with an emphasis on setting up the environment so that the elderly individual will receive the optimum care.
Caregiver services, a counseling center, an empowerment center, walking groups, a variety of workshops, visits by volunteers, the Bonding with Motion program (a fascinating project that I intend to expand upon in the future) and more, without bounds.
I find it amazing. That there is an address. That there is somewhere to turn. That there is a way to ease pain that is not physical. That there is someone to talk to. That there is – Ezer Mizion.
When I heard about the “Bonding with Motion” workshop to improve the physical capabilities of handicapped and home-bound patients, and especially when I learned that the workshop is geared for family members caring for these patients, I decided to check it out. I took a peek – and I was won over…
I first heard about the program from Varda Kahana, director of the Ezer Mizion branch here in Rechovot, and from Anat Yules, the director of the Municipality’s Div
ision for the Benefit of Senior Citizens. I shared the Aleh organization’s interest in expanding and developing additional services for target populations of seniors with impaired function in order to continue actualizing the organization’s goals and contribute to enhancement of the quality of life for the elderly population in the city. They shared with me the details of the innovative program for the benefit of seniors with cognitive decline that had been in existence for several years.