Marriage is Forever, Isn’t It?

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Yes, marriage is forever!

Marriage is forever, isn’t it? But what happens when he is living in a nursing home, incapacitated and she is wheelchair bound at home? After 63 years of marriage are they never to see each other again?

“After fourteen concentration camps, my wife is my whole world,” he says. “I long to spend time together but I am imprisoned in an aged body.”

Eons ago, they used to be young. They both loved the beach. He used to surf and was quite good at it. And so they dreamed.  Separately. Alone. Until Ezer Mizion came into the picture.

It would be like years ago. A date. On the beach. Like when they were young, Like their courtship days.

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Transporting the elderly disabled

Logistics are never easy. It required two Ezer Mizion ambulances, each fitted to accommodate a wheelchair. It required trained drivers who are able to handle the disabled safely and with care and respect. It required finding a suitable beach.  It required an empty slot in Ezer Mizion’s tightly scheduled Make-A-Wish program. So many requirements but Ezer Mizion staff was determined and the holocaust survivors’ ‘date’ became a reality.

And so there they were, “strolling” along the boardwalk, watching the surfers, reliving their younger days together.  They talked and talked, sharing memories, catching up on each other’s lives. They laughed at the antics of the surfers, recalling the days when he rode the surf. Once again they felt the sun’s rays, listened to the pounding of the waves, smelled the ocean spray…together.

An Ezer Mizion outing would not be complete without a delectable meal to go with it. Lunch at the Shaltele Restaurant overlooking the sea topped off their date. They chose all their favorites ending off with an ice cream sundae with all the trimmings. It was a beautiful day. Neither one wanted it to end. But the memories will chase away the loneliness for months to come.

Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program offers the elderly holocaust survivor the opportunity to choose an event they wish to experience, something they can look forward to. The requests are as varied as the people who make them. It may be a visit to the Kosel, a tour of the old neighborhood, a trip to Tzfas. It may be an opinion regarding entertainment at the facility in which they reside. Ezer Mizion receives requests from social workers or family members of lonely, disabled, holocaust survivors throughout Israel. After reviewing the requests, Ezer Mizion coordinates the logistics of making these dreams come true.

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The lonely holocaust survivor in his senior years

Many of today’s Holocaust survivors are confined to facilities, lonely and isolated. They suffered indescribable trauma in their early childhood and youth. As people age they face loss. Loss of their independence, of their faculties, of their standing in the community. Slowly they shrivel, even losing their sense of self. Our goal is to revive their spirit, ignite their feeling of self-worth, and encourage them to delve below the dust that has gathered and realize that their wants, their opinions matter. This, we hope, will renew their vitality and empower them by enhancing their sense of self-worth.

Approximately 570 wishes will be fulfilled this year. The senior is heavily involved in the planning and receives a lovely album of pictures after the Big Day. The anticipation beforehand coupled with the memories following will infuse our precious survivors with emotional energy, healing, hope and happiness.

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.

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No List At All?

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Golden age is not as golden as we believe

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?

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On the Way to Work

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The loneliness of the golden age

She looked lonely. Just sitting there on a park bench with her attendant day after day. I stopped for a moment on my way to work. We spoke. A brief chat each day that we both looked forward to. A warm spirit…an intelligent mind imprisoned in an eighty-two year old body. Erica needed more stimulation. Perhaps some board games to keep her mind active. A game partner who would love her and whom she could love.

I reached my office at Ezer Mizion Ashdod Branch. A message from a parent. The volunteer we had paired up for game therapy with her special needs child was not working out. I had had my doubts. Chagit was eager to volunteer and help others but I had not been sure as to how well she could relate to children. Her own childhood had been less than perfect and she was now living with a foster family.  Hmmm. Perhaps…?

It was a perfect match. Chagit visits twice a week armed with games and professional advice from the Game Lending Library Division. a project of Ezer Mizion’s Geriatric Services Dept. Malka Hager Fitness Center. The foster family reports that Chagit is so much more fulfilled. The volunteering with Erica has worked wonders for her, boosting her confidence and self-image. 

As for Erica — she still waits for me on the bench near my workplace and confides in me how she is teaching Chagit how to play… Continue reading On the Way to Work

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Dementia: Us and Them

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Confusion of early stages of dementia

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

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Alzheimer’s: Color Me Black.

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Alzheimer’s: The disease that destroys childhood memories

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.

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Is That Mommy?!

Alzheimer’s robbed her of her mother

Chavi* was a young teen. Two of her older brothers were away in Yeshiva and the rest of her siblings were married. Chavi enjoyed the best of both worlds – a large supportive family and having Mommy almost all to herself. They shopped together, cooked together and shared meaningful conversations about Chavi’s social life and plans for the future. Until one day when Mommy wasn’t there. Oh, she was there physically but something wasn’t right. They had been shopping for summer clothes when Mommy insisted on buying a rattle for Mindy, one of her nieces. Mommy just wasn’t hearing her when she reminded her that Mindy was now four years old. Then there was the time Mommy, who hardly ever raised her voice, called Rochel, Chavi’s older sister, screaming at her for forgetting to pick her up to go to the shiur (lecture) last night. Except there had not been a shiur last night. Continue reading Is That Mommy?!

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Giving Again and Again and Again

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A Shavuot treat for holocaust survivors

When a person wakes up each day with the thought of how can I make things better for someone else, then answers seem to abound. Rabbi Chananya Chollak, founder of Ezer Mizion, is such a person. The most recent idea has been collaboration with Chasdei Naomi to brighten the lives of hundreds of holocaust survivors on the Yom Tov of Shavuot. These very special heroes often live on a fixed income. Their food expenditures are perforce minimal and only the lower cost items enter their kitchens.  Continue reading Giving Again and Again and Again

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When Mommy Becomes a Child

Question Mark In Maze Shows Confusion And Puzzled
Helplessly lost in maze of confusion

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

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A Holocaust Survivor Reaches Out to Others

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Healing the wounds of holocaust survivors

As one who went through the nightmare, Tziporah Abramowitz (77) is more capable than anyone else to connect to the depths of the souls of the holocaust survivors in order to help them with the emotional challenge of coping daily with the horrible memories, which do not leave them alone for a moment. She has become a beloved volunteer at Ezer Mizion’s social club for holocaust survivors. Her encouragement, her compliments, her ability to engage the members and her weekly presentation on the Parsha (Torah portion of the week) all serve to bring that elusive smile to the faces of these elderly victims of a horror that defies description.

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Raoel Wallenburg

Tziporah was one of those saved by Raoel Wallenburg. She was hidden, together with hundreds of children, in the cellar of one of the many buildings rented by Mr. Wallenburg. In the 17th century there had been a terrible fire in London that killed many. When the “Pest’ section of Budapest was built, it was required that from every building, there would be a way to escape to another building. Continue reading A Holocaust Survivor Reaches Out to Others

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