The scene is typical at Montfort Lake in Israel. A lone man casts his fishing rod breaking the shimmering lake’s surface. His pail is already filled with trout for the family supper that evening. A father helps his youngsters into a rowboat cautioning them to close their life jackets with care. A newlywed couple strolls around the lake’s edge. And then there is the Ezer Mizion group. Not the typical. They are in their eighties and nineties. No boating or fishing for them. But the memories…They, too, had once loved the lake. It may have been a lifetime ago but in their hearts there is the same joy of yesteryear when they were young. The weather was perfect. The view magnificent. They sang. They engaged in sports suitable for the golden-ager. This most sublime day was topped with a cookout, a marvelous treat for our survivors whose three meals a day are eaten in the nursing home dining room.
This special day was part of Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program whose purpose is to enable the elderly holocaust survivor living in a nursing home to emerge from the ‘just a number’ syndrome and once again experience his favorite activities.
Activities at the Geriatric Services Division during the Coronavirus Period
150 professional staff members
13 branches across the country
Thousands of dedicated volunteers
With the onset of the crisis, the entire Geriatric Services Division shifted to a mode of alternating home/office work. Authorization to work remote was given to 60 staff members who were provided technical support and computers, as needed.
During this period, the tremendous responsibility of the Geriatric Services division towards the highest-risk group in the world has doubled. This responsibility is reflected by work around the clock, with no breaks, in the division’s 2 primary areas of activity:
Mentoring and guidance of new seniors, their caregivers and family members in obtaining a geriatric services stipend from Bituach Leumi (the National Insurance Institute)
Placement of certified attendants in seniors’ homes
Guidance in the process of obtaining a foreign worker
Initiated phone calls every week to all the attendants, care recipients, caregiving family members (about 7500 calls a week)
Frontal and phone visits to 3000 seniors
Intensive work geared at giving the full number of hours of entitlement and care to the senior, in spite of attendants’ fear and concern of giving caregiving hours in the homes of seniors.
Operation of an active “Corona hotline” Sunday to Thursday from 8 AM to 10 PM and on Fridays and Erev Chag from 8 AM to 12 PM; Motzaei Shabbat and Motzaei Chag from 8 PM to 11 PM
The hotline provides a response to seniors, family members, and attendants in the following areas:
Calls for emotional support
Therapy calls with experienced professionals (social workers)
Calls to obtain information about entitlements and assistance in making them happen
Facilitating community and municipal services, especially hot meals!
Facilitating Ezer Mizion services: loan of medical equipment,
Arranging purchase of groceries, produce, home supplies and medicines and delivery via Ezer Mizion “Linked to Life” volunteers
Tapping in to connections for the purpose of obtaining service from different entities, in collaboration with the Home Front Command, kupat cholim, etc.
Activating volunteers to relieve loneliness via:
“Listening Ear” project — phone calls from volunteer emotional therapists
“Adopt a Bubby and Zeidy” — in collaboration with Discount Bank employee volunteers who are set up with seniors to allay their loneliness by phone.
Online physical exercise through a number of channels: website, online handbooks, etc.
Distribution of physical exercise kits to the homes of seniors by volunteers
Telephone guidance for active participants at the Senior Health Promotion Center by Center staff
Installation of Security Cameras
Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer Patient Support Center
Outgoing support calls initiated by the Center’s professional staff to caregiving families who were in touch with the center in the past
Online support groups via ZOOM
Phone calls initiated by staff to all Holocaust survivors who participate regularly in the Ezer Mizion activities
Provision of a full response to needs that arise in the conversations: cooked food, purchase of groceries and medicines, emotional support via therapeutic phone calls
Home visits, in keeping with all Health Department directives (remote, porch visits)
Establishment of a mobile library operated by means of a personal delivery from the municipal library to the Holocaust Survivor’s home – operated by the British Café staff
Online/telephone physical exercise guidance
Distribution of potted plants to 1100 Holocaust survivors across the country on Yom Hasho’ah
As people age they face loss. Loss of their independence, of their faculties, of their standing in the community. The holocaust survivor is particularly fragile due to his nightmarish youth which often resurfaces in old age when mundane life no longer makes its demands on him. No longer a decision maker, he feels unnoticed, worthless and lacks any purpose in life. The simplest choices such as what to have for breakfast are no longer his to make. If he expresses an opinion, there is no one to listen. Slowly the aged nursing home resident shrivels, even losing his sense of self.
Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program has undertaken to fulfill the personal request of 570 holocaust survivors living in residences throughout the country.
S is a case in point. She resides in a nursing home with residents of mixed backgrounds. She herself is Moroccan as are some others but the home caters to the more prevalent Ashkenazi groups. She understands but still longs for an occasional taste of ‘home’. It was not until she met up with the Ezer Mizion staff did she feel that her needs, her opinions would have any value. Her thoughts about an occasional connection to the childhood memories of the minority groups and introducing the others to how specific ethnic groups live. Certainly a valid proposal for the nursing home staff but, just as certainly, not one that S. would ever make on her own. Her self-respect, her dignity soared on night of Welcome to Morocco, featuring a professional vibrant, ethnic band playing Moroccan music followed by delicious Moroccan cuisine. She basked in delight as announcements were made to her fellow residents that it was she who had suggested the evening’s entertainment.
R was a Russian living in a nursing home with a significant Russian population. Significant but not enough for the staff to take notice. All entertainment was in Hebrew. R. understood Hebrew well but it was not her prime language. As the Ezer Mizion One Wish staff developed a relationship with her, encouraging her to express her opinions, she shyly made mention of her personal feelings. Like a fragile newly-hatched baby bird, her thoughts on Russian entertainment hesitantly emerged. It was in her honor that the nursing home presented its first Russian show – a spectacular performance – which all the Russian speaking residents of her facility enjoyed together with her, enhancing her happiness and sense of purpose.
In the first few months of the program’s existence, One Wish has proven itself to have more than met the goals of the initiative. The seniors feel noticed. Their opinions matter. Their existence is validated. They continue to discuss their Special Day long after it occurred and this day becomes the catalyst to a new awakening of that sense of self.
Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.
Our list is long. The day is short. So many items get transferred to the next day’s list. Constant pressure. Never finishing. Can we even begin to imagine what it be like to have no list? No list at all? No goals? Nothing to work toward? Nothing to look forward to?
For a short moment you picture yourself breathing a sigh of relief. I’m done! But then you begin to think. And you realize how unappetizing a day is with nothing to get ready for, nothing to plan. Just nothing. Continue reading No List At All?
Companionship. A vital need at every stage of life. And especially essential for the holocaust survivor. Rivka is a typical survivor. She was born in 1930, in Lodz and grew up with her parents and three siblings in a warm, supportive family. But the war came crashing down on this idyllic family life and young Rivka was left all alone. Illness took the lives of her parents and her siblings perished in Auschwitz and Treblinka. Life as she had known it was no more and the future looked bleak indeed. But brick by brick, she rebuilt her life, marrying and raising a family. And now at 87 years old, she sits, absorbed in her memories, in need of the companionship of those who understand. Spending her days in a rocking chair by the window would be perfectly acceptable but she doesn’t want that. She wants to laugh. She wants to share. She wants to connect with others. And so Rivka became a member of Ezer Mizion’s ‘British Café Club’ and, for the past four years, has not missed an activity. Whatever the weather – cold, rainy, scorching hot – Rivka is there. Bright and bubbly and ever so grateful to the staff. Recently she fell and fractured her arm. But that didn’t stop her. Her arm ensconced in a cast, she surprised everyone at the next event, showering blessings upon each individual staff member. “I’m a holocaust survivor and my blessings have substantial weight in heaven,” she says as she moves on to the next person with her warm words of praise. Continue reading Holocaust Survivors in their Golden Years
It’s called the Golden Age. From the vantage point of a younger person, it truly seems golden. No difficulties with toddlers or raising a difficult teen. No problematic boss to please. No mortgage payments to meet. The senior can just sit back and enjoy her accomplishments. But is it really so? Now let’s change hats and sit on the senior’s rocking chair. No children who need her to kiss the boo-boo away. No shared smile of satisfaction with a daughter when the perfect Yom Tov outfit s finally found. No challenges. No satisfaction in meeting those challenges. The former frantically-busy-mother wonders just what she is doing in the world. Gradually, lacking the stimulus of natural challenge, she forgets how to think, how to problem solve, how to plan. Lacking goals, she is miserable, depressed with no idea how to extricate herself from the dilemma. Continue reading The Golden Age?
Esty had absorbed the message that pervades every nook and cranny at Ezer Mizion: “What else can we do to help those in need?” Esty was hired as a Developmental Aide who met with special needs children several times a week, working to attain the goals set by the therapists. Being well trained in the field and blessed with a lot of initiative and great ideas, she developed a program using games to help meet those goals. A classic Candyland game could work wonders if utilized in the right way, she discovered. It was not long before she was heading Ezer Mizion’s newly founded Game Lending Library. Therapists would use the games to supplement their own supplies and families with special children would meet with her and borrow games based on her recommendation.
A busy mother, at her wits end, is told that her child will grow so much more if Mommy does ‘homework’ with him each day. It’s not that she doesn’t want to obey the therapists’ instructions. It’s not that she doesn’t care about her child reaching his potential. Continue reading It’s Only a Game…or Is it?
“Hello, Ezer Mizion, this is the medical transport division…”
“Thank you, this is T. Would it be possible please to have a transport for tomorrow morning, going at 10:00 a.m. and returning at 1:00 p.m.?” – “Certainly, with pleasure. Please call and confirm again tonight.”
That is the pleasantness and good feeling that we witness again and again at Ezer Mizion, an organization that has long ago become a model of exceptional public service, especially for the ill and disabled. The service is wonderful, reliable, and punctual, and they maintain full confidentiality.
In the evening, when we call to confirm, we again feel the radiating pleasantness and empathy. The actual transport staff also gives such a good feeling. They are friendly and upbeat and do their work with their entire heart.
Thank you to all those involved, and especially to Mrs. Dassy, who orchestrates the entire network.
Wishing you continued strength to do your work with joy!
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.
Shmuel Strauss was hired as a driver. His job: to transport the elderly and disabled from here to there. But reading between the lines, he knew that an Ezer Mizion driver could do so much more.
“I often see the same people week after week and develop relationships,” he says. “One of my clients was a young mother of three whose husband had died four years ago. Now it was she who was battling for her life. I take her to the oncology clinic for treatment several times a week. Worries color her every waking hour. Will she…? What will be with her children afterwards…” Shmuel would speak warmly to her. His encouragement left her smiling, albeit wanly. One trip found her even more depressed than usual. Continue reading Behind the Wheel at Ezer Mizion