Archive for the ‘Charity in Israel’ Category

Because of You!!!

December 5, 2018

3000

Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has recently celebrated a major milestone. Because of you, our good friends and supporters, we have passed the THREE-THOUSAND mark of transplants. That’s three thousand  patients whose lives were saved! Three thousand families who remained whole! Three thousand grandmas and grandpas, Mommies and Daddies and so many tiny, frightened children  traveled in one fateful moment from agony to joy,  fueled by the electrifying words: We have a genetic match!

 

Currently there are close to a million registrants on the database. Prior to the birth of Ezer Mizion, the chances of a Jewish person finding a match were approximately 8%. Now 76% of the requests are returned with a positive response.

 

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But for those in the remaining group, percentages don’t count. All they know is despair, anguish, helplessness. A cure is out there somewhere but no one knows where. And so they continue to wait in hope and prayer for the phone call that will mean Life.  As the registry continues to grow, the probability of finding that elusive match increases.   It is your gifts that enable Ezer Mizion to continue to expand so that someday virtually every single request can be met.

 

Success stories abound. Let’s peak into the home of the Schneider family. The family consists of two parents and their sons, B., O. and P.. When the boys were small, they learned all about ‘taking turns’. Each would wait patiently, or not so patiently, till it was his turn to accompany Abba for the weekly shopping trip. Now as adults, they seem to be also taking turns. The story began three years ago with B., then only nineteen years old, who received an asap call from Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry. He had been found to be a genetic match for a woman with leukemia. Her only chance to survive was a transplant. If a genetic match could be found, her life could be saved. If not, … B. was that match. There was no doubt in his mind that he would do it but he needed moral support and his brother, O., three years his senior, offered to accompany him to the hospital. The stem cell transplant was a success and B. was walking on cloud nine. He had done what many people daydream about: he had saved a life.

 

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Three years later, it was O.’s phone that rang. “It wasn’t the kind of phone call you get every day,” he said. He could hardly believe it. It is not uncommon to have two siblings be a match for a patient. In this case, P. was also a match. But O. recalled their childhood conflicts and played the seniority card.  It worked and now it was B.’s turn to accompany his brother, O., to the hospital. Meanwhile, P., the middle brother, waits for his turn. Just like when he was a little boy, he is sure that it will come.  He looks forward to joining the three thousand others, including his two brothers, who have saved a life…who have saved a world!

 

 

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AMIA Leadership Mission Visits Ezer Mizion

November 28, 2018

AMIA gDr. Agustin Yigdal Zbar, president of AMIA, the association of Jewish communal services in Argentina, together with Mr. Diego Emilio Salem, Deputy President of Argentia’s Jewish School Federations, recently visited Israel.  The purpose of their visit was to rally Israeli government funding for a teachers’ training project in the Jewish communities in Argentina and for development of a new Health Services Division, to be housed in the AMIA Jewish Community building in Buenos Aires.

Recognized worldwide for its expertise in many facets of healthcare, Ezer Mizion is comprised of numerous divisions focusing on varied needs of Israel’s population. These range from mental health to geriatrics, from special needs to servicing the seriously ill. Each division is staffed by top professionals in their field whose knowledge encompasses the forefront of technology and therapeutics.AMIA b

The Argentina delegation approached Ezer Mizion to learn more about the organization’s broad range of activities and services to benefit patients and their families.

The overseas guests were hosted by Ezer Mizion International Chairman Rabbi Chananya Chollak,  Dr. Bracha Zisser, Director of Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Patient Support Services and International Bone Marrow Donor Registry, and Rabbi Shimon Rogoway, head of the Medical Counseling and Advocacy Department.AMIA a

The tour included Ezer Mizion’s Oranit, a home away from home for cancer patients and their families. Located in Petach Tikvah, near Israel’s major pediatric oncology centers, it spares families from exhausting daily trips for brief treatment sessions. Oranit provides an escape from the world of chemotherapy and aggressive treatments into a haven of comfort, caring and cheer. In addition to the 22 spacious and comfortable suites of the Andrew and Margaret Rosinger Residential Wing , Oranit boasts a cafeteria, an auditorium, a shul (synagogue), the beautifully landscaped Malka Lazarus playground, the Rinat Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion and an extensive program of recreational therapeutic activities at the Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center. In contrast to hospitals, Oranit is a beautiful, happy place where families can relax, enjoy spending time together and benefit from extensive therapy in handling the nightmare that has entered lives – all in an atmosphere of fun and warmth.AMIA c

The guests were also invited to view Ezer Mizion’s International Jewish Bone Marrow Registry which has, to date, saved almost 3,000 lives around the globe. Many of these are small children whose last chance of survival had been a transplant. Requests for genetic matching come in from all parts of the planet including countless from oncology clinics in Argentina.

Plans are underway for the new Health Division to work in partnership with Ezer Mizion in Israel, via the Division Coordinator, Rebbetzin Malka Hamra, for the purpose of providing medical counseling and guidance to the members of the Argentinian Jewish community.AMIA h

The tour continued to the homes of the gedolei Yisrael (Jewish sages), accompanied by Rav Chollak, to obtain their blessing for the delegation’s success. The gedolei Yisrael strongly encouraged the Argentinian representatives, conferring their bllessings for the realization of their plans to benefit the Jewish community in Argentina.

On the Way to Work

November 21, 2018

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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…

All the best,

Estie Kenig

Director, Activity Clubs and Services for Children with Special Needs

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.

Ezer Mizion’s professional staff has many means of counteracting such a situation. A recently added program is Game Therapy. Regular game playing fills in so many empty spaces from companionship to cognitive exercise, adding much to the senior’s day.

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.

 

 

Special Children/Special Parents

November 14, 2018

pr canc sup summer camp 2014 jeep tripSome special needs children have very special parents indeed! Ayelet Sanens is a person of many facets. She is a pre-school teacher by profession who devotes hours to preparing the presentation of a concept to her tiny charges. She fully understands the educational benefit of breaking down ideas based on her vast experience with her special needs daughter, Tamar. Of an outgoing personality and a sense of responsibility, she is an active member of the community, initiating and supporting worthwhile communal functions. In addition, she tries to publicize, wherever she goes, the need to recycle household items to protect the environment. Often heard from Ayelet by her friends: ‘Don’t buy it unless you need it and, once you do buy it, recycle it when your family no longer has any use for it.’

 

It’s not often that all of these facets come together as they did in the recent Ashdod Environmental Preservation and Recycling Fair.

Aware of the many special needs children who can benefit from Ezer Mizion’s special summer program in Ashdod, she brainstormed and came up with an ‘out of the box’ idea of promoting her opinions on recycling to raise funds for these kids. Thus was born Ashdod’s amazing Environmental Preservation and Recycling Fair!

Items on display included toys, cosmetic products, costume jewelry, clothing, household items, and more, all tastefully and attractively arranged in booths.

pr spec Ashdod Recyc Fair 1The event brought the Ashdod residents closer together as they rallied to provide a much-needed communal program.  In attendance at this charming event, in addition to the local residents, were the Education Department supervisor and other local municipal staff representatives.

The creative event was enjoyed by all, and the proceeds will be put to good use: helping to finance Ezer Mizion’s summer repertoire for Ashdod’s children with special needs. These children have been benefitting enormously from Ezer Mizion’s newly expanded program serving children with special needs in the local area and the surrounding region, under the able direction of Mrs. Estie Koenig.

Ezer Mizion has long been in the forefront of providing services for special needs children throughout the country. Ezer Mizion’s Beit Chana Activity Clubs provide supervision and constructive activity in four major cities in Israel for children with special needs after school hours, weekends and holidays.

Ezer Mizion’s training courses provide Developmental Aides with the fundamental concepts and techniques of speech, occupational and physical therapy, enabling them to provide this therapy under the direction of professionals. .Because early intervention is crucial for children with developmental difficulties, Ezer Mizion offers subsidized physical, occupational and speech therapy to children from birth through age eight. Through Ezer Mizion’s unique Developmental Aide program families are offered these therapy sessions at a minimal cost.

Ezer Mizion’s network of special needs summer camps has grown to include camps to service thousands of children with physical handicaps, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness and emotional disorders. For these youngsters, Ezer Mizion’s summer camps are the highlight of the entire year.

Fifteen thousand hostings by respite programs and twenty day care center for children are more of  the many ways Ezer Mizion attempts to increase the child’s chances of reaching his full potential and to alleviate the plight of families dealing with special needs.

It Was a Hard Week

November 7, 2018

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We speak of it as being a ‘battle with cancer’. Like all battles, it requires an army, each division with its special task, each soldier with a mission to which he devotes his heart and soul. Each ‘soldier’s very being becomes linked to those he helps. Help comes in many different forms.  Therapy, living quarters near the clinic, meals, rides. The list goes on and on. This is no 9-5 job where work-related info disappears from the employee or volunteer’s radar as he exits the office.

 

Shopping for his family at the supermarket, Avi, an Ezer Mizion Linked to Life volunteer,  spots a candy bar that little Yossi likes and, with an unmanly sob, he adds it to his cart. (Yossi’s Mommy used to buy him that candy every Sabbath but now Yossi’s Mommy is …) His phone rings and the shopping cart gets shoved into a corner. The store manager will understand. It’s happened before. His wife will surely understand. She had been tearfully praying when he left the house. It’s Moshe. He needs a ride to the hospital.  Now. They just called. His wife has only hours to live. He knew it was coming but when it does…oh,  it’s so hard. He will be needed for much more than the ride. He and his fellow Linked 2 Life members had supported the family in so many ways for months. “Hashem, give him strength,” he fervently prays as he rushes to his car.

 

Many weeks are filled with joy like when a child wins his battle with leukemia and Ezer Mizion’s L2L members drive the family and accumulated paraphernalia home from the hospital.  Soon the child will join his friends in their games, a boy like any other boy. A celebratory parade as they enter the home, each one carrying packages, almost dancing up the stairs. Or when we’re invited to a bris by a young father who had been afraid his baby would be named after him. He’s cured now. The nightmare is over.

 

Other weeks are not so. Like this past one. Ora died this week. She had been part of the lives of so many Linked to Life volunteers in Rechasim and Haifa. Her conversation was never about her pain, her anguish. It was only about how grateful she was to each person for everything done for her family.

“Mere words cannot express my thanks to you for all your help and support. Hashem, in His great compassion and immeasurable love sent me such special agents as yourselves. I bless you all from the bottom of my heart that Hashem should repay you in kind, grant you health, happiness, and success in all your endeavors and nachat from the children. May good and kindness pursue you your entire lives.”

These words were written to Ezer Mizion just a few months ago by Ora a”h.

We rallied. We tried to smooth the way for them, do the little extras to bring some sunshine into their numbered days together. The medical staff fought hard. We fought hard to keep up their spirits. And we lost. Ora is gone.  Ezer Mizion will be there for the family, with the practical, with the emotional.as long as we’re needed. We’ll be their cushion, their pillar.

It was a hard week.  There was a family at Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp whose mother spent the time in bed on pain killers, under the supervision of medical staff, coming out for meals and some low-key activities. How gratifying to have been the catalyst for fortifying the family as they shared an enjoyable time together… their last. A day before camp ended, the mother was hospitalized. The children stayed on to finish camp. Ezer Mizion was with the children when they were told the bitter news of their mother’s demise. The younger ones hugged each other in a bundle of grief and said: “Ezer Mizion will help Abba and us. They never leave us to be alone!”

 

It was a hard week. A single mother of young children. Another young mother. And a sixteen year old boy with a brain tumor. Four young mothers and one young boy in one week.

 

Hashem, please give all of us at Ezer Mizion strength to be their strength. And Hashem, please hold them tight in Your embrace. Hug them. Comfort them. And wipe away all their tears.

It’s For Real

October 31, 2018

 

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tfillinAll he wanted was to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah with Ima….   But his mother is a cancer patient. It’s bad. The top doctors have given up on finding her a cure… They say it’s just a matter of days. And the boy? He didn’t want to be an orphan before his Bar Mitzvah! His only wish: to have his mother at his side on his Big Day. A wish so small… but so out of reach.

💔 A wish that tears the heart to pieces. A heart that can only be made whole again by someone who has within him a giant heart – big enough to encompass a young boy’s pain.

♥ Moishy B, an Ezer Mizion volunteer is such a man whose heart beats with irrepressible, boundless chessed. Work schedules, personal errands all fell by the wayside as he devoted the day to bringing the boy

to the homes of gedolei Yisrael to get their blessing in honor of the simchah. Touching the greatness of our gedolim, being soothed by their words of compassion helped heal a heart torn asunder.

📖 Together, they traveled to Yerushalayim to daven at the Kotel and even had a tour of the Kotel Tunnels, specially produced by another Ezer Mizion volunteer, our Man of Action – Moishy H..

 

🎁 And to top things off (after all, he’s only a young boy)… a bag of gifts and perks organized by Ezer Mizion’s  warm-hearted Mrs. M..

 

bandaged heart Ezer Mizion ­– we’re there when it hurts. It’s not just a slogan. It’s for real!

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Let’s Start All Over Again

October 24, 2018

Sara* was not adjusting. As a special child, her parents had dealt with numerous issues but Orientation Day  marked what they hoped would be a new beginning. “The school has experience with children like her. Their staff is professional. For sure, they’ll have the key to help her.” With the tremendous burden of raising a special child now shared, they felt a weight being lifted off their own frail shoulders.

But it didn’t happen. Sara displayed extreme social anxiety and various other challenges. Her teachers tried but she was not moving forward. Each day Mommy found it harder and harder to send her off to school with a hopeful smile. It was so difficult to face but face it they must. Their precious child was not succeeding. To others she may appear to be a special needs child, doomed to failure. But to her parents, she was everything. A mighty wave of love for this child would overpower them but the daily reports threatened to topple their last hopes.

Then it came. The dreaded phone call.  The school was requesting a meeting. The parents were certain of what they would be hearing.  Probably a cold, professional assessment in clipped tones, “We’re sorry. Your daughter is not adjusting. We suggest that you look for another school…”

They arrived precisely on time for their appointment, trembling in the principal’s office as if they themselves were school children waiting for the principal to issue her dire ruling. But they were wrong. Oh, how wrong they were!

Several professionals were there at the meeting.  Each one was warm and caring and, best of all, hopeful. “Sara is a lovely little girl with many strengths. We’re going to work hard to tap into those strengths.  But first we have to get her to adjust to a school setting. We’ve discussed many ideas and have come up with one that we think may work. Since the current situation is not succeeding, we’re going to start all over again with a new adjustment period. Sara will be given her own small room with only an assistant in the room with her. As she gradually adjusts to the assistant’s presence, we will move her up, step by step, to a standard school setting.”

Success. After a few days with only the assistant, Sara was brought into the Gan for a short period. She began to cry but her tears soon stopped when she caught sight of an interesting toy. Day by day, she was able to remain in Gan for longer periods.

In the course of the year, she received paramedical therapy, with an emphasis on the communication aspect and the DIR method. Slowly but surely, Sara began making eye contact with the staff and even showing affection during the therapy sessions. In addition, she learned to play functionally with educational games and began producing her first words.

 

By the end of the year, substantial progress was seen in Sara’s functioning. She came to Gan happily, put words together, expressed requests and feelings, and began forging social connections with the other children. Sara remained in the day nursery for another year, during which she was placed with the higher-functioning group of children. She was successfully toilet-trained and began eating a wide range of foods, after a long period of pickiness, when she’d eat only plain bread, Bamba, Similac, and one specific kind of flavored yogurt.

 

Sara completed her second year able to utter sentences and to carry on basic conversation. She had become friends with the other children in Gan. She also showed substantial and significant improvement in her motor and communication skills. Sara went on to another year of a municipal “Gan Safah” — preschool with therapy support— and we were recently informed that for the coming year, she will be mainstreamed into a regular preschool.

Sara is one of the many success stories of Ezer Mizion’s Judith Pfeuffer  Day Care Network in Israel, whose goals are the same as those of the students’ parents: to love each child and help them grow and to never, ever give up.

Strike A Match

October 17, 2018

pr weddingAlone. In a virtual corner, separated from their peers, feeling ostracized, not quite as valued. One by one, their friends become engaged but they remain.

They have so much to offer. So much to give to a relationship. Yet people shy away from marriage. Fearful of the unknown.

Malky* has juvenile diabetes. She functions fine. In fact, better than fine. A popular girl throughout her high school years, she was head of the school newspaper in eleventh grade. Her diabetes is under control and she leads a normal life. Chavi* was born with a limp. Extensive therapy has brought her to a good place and she is fully functioning, as capable as anyone in chasing after a mischievous toddler but, so far, there is no toddler in her life. Her friends have several children but she has hardly had one date. Mendy* comes from a dysfunctional home. His maturity far surpasses his that of peers. He is a caring, stable young man who would make a wonderful husband.  Moishe’s* life was saved by a bone marrow transplant when he was three years old. For over twenty years, there has been no sign of the cancer returning. But people are scared. Avi* was diagnosed with a mental health issue but those who are with him day in and day out would never guess. Medication allows him to function completely normally and he is well-like and respected in his office.

The shaddchanim (matchmakers) are kind. Gently, they inform their client that, once again, the other party has said (s)he sounds like  a wonderful person but…And so years pass by. A decade. And the dreams of these truly wonderful people – totally functional members of our communities –  are stymied.

It was this situation that gave birth to Ezer Mizion’s Strike a Match Division, headed by Mrs. Reisner.  Each situation is unique. The actual abilities of the perspective groom or bride must be clearly determined based on a doctor’s assessment. The prognosis and likelihood of defective children must be understood well to be clarified to the ‘other side’. Extreme sensitivity must be employed in allaying the fears of the other side, fears that may be highly unwarranted yet loom large in the minds of the family. That same sensitivity must be able to determine which issue would be a compatible match with which and how to present each to the other side. Tremendous care is taken in researching family genetics to be sure the couple is truly compatible and capable of building a home together.

Rabbi Shimon Rogaway, Director of Ezer Mizion’s Medical Referral Unit, is often consulted as is Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

When the groundwork is done, Mrs. Reisner meets with 5-10 singles per week. Three hundred and fifty of these singles have met, many numerous times, and, to date, there have been 32 mazel tov’s! Half of those thirty-two were the suggestions of Mrs. Reisner, the other half those who sought her advice after the shidduch was suggested by another party. She spent weeks, months holding their hands, investigating, guiding, counseling, referring, consulting with rabbis and medical advisors, clarifying each issue as it came up.

An estimated 500 people consulted with Mrs. Reisner last year in her capacity as Ezer Mizion’s shadchanit (matchmaker). A young lady with epilepsy was brought to Mrs. Reisner who was involved every step of the way from suggesting a switch of medication since seizures were continuing to derive pride from a fully functioning young woman who is now successfully married.

A high functioning young man with ASD is now happy married to a high functioning special needs girl. The couple lives in Alei Siach (a sheltered home setting for adults with special needs) and receive all the support they need from both the home and their parents. They have both blossomed tremendously. The chosson’s mother describes her great joy: “I see my son sitting and schmoozing with his new wife for an hour at a time.”

For those who approach the shidduch scene with a strike against them,   Ezer Mizion’s Strike A Match is the pillar they lean on until they, too, join their peers with the sounds of joy at the wedding as they begin to build their unique home.

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.

 

 

Lost??!!!

October 10, 2018

AirplaneThe logistics were endless. But the trip was important to him. Not that many years ago, before he became a victim of Parkinson’s disease, a trip would have involved not much more than packing a carryon the night before. He didn’t need much. Now things were different. Some members of his family didn’t want him to go. They were afraid. What if something went wrong? Arrangements were made for every detail. They planned and re-planned. He wanted so much to go and so his family rallied and tried to smooth out all the bumps.

 

“Goodbye. Have a safe trip! Goodbye! Goodbye!” They all gathered at the airport to see him off. They weren’t too worried. They had covered everything. “He’ll be fine,” they told themselves.

 

suitcaseThe trip was uneventful. It wasn’t until they disembarked that the bump came. A big one. He checked the monitor and made his way to the appropriate carousel. It was the first time he hadn’t used a carryon. The Parkinson’s made that too difficult.  “It’s the green suitcase with the black stripe,” he told the person helping him. Suitcases flew out. All colors. All sizes. But not his. He made his way to the agent and handed over his baggage papers. He waited while the agent checked his database, made some calls, checked again. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s lost. Please fill out these forms and you will be reimbursed.” He just stood there stunned. Lost? The shirts could be replaced. But his medication! His medication he must have! He only has enough for about half a day. All those pills. So many kinds. How could he ever replace them in a different country?!

 

Airport_Seating_SolutionsSuddenly he felt old. Too old to have made the trip. His family had been right. He never should have gone. He sat down on the nearest chair. Helpless. The ringing of his phone broke into his melancholy thoughts. “Hi. How was the trip? Everything ok?” Nothing was ok. “Wait, Tatte. We’ll work things out. You’ll see. Everything will be fine.”

 

He didn’t see how that could be but, having no emotional energy to even stand up, he remained there on the bench.

 

Meanwhile, his son got to work. One family member was sent to the pharmacy to procure a whole new set of medication, complete with all legal paperwork. Another was given the job to find someone who could take it from Israel to the US. Calls were made and many people suggested calling Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life Network.

 

The following post went up on Linked to Life at 8:32:

Urgent request! An Israeli with Parkinson’s disease flew to NY and lost his suitcase with all his medications! Family desperately looking for someone to bring new meds from Israel to NY.

At 8:35, just three minutes (!!) later: Delivery to New York has been arranged! A giant thank you to all our partners!

 

Still despondent, still sitting on his bench, he answered the ring on his phone. “What??? But how??? You say tomorrow morning???? Really???” With a spring in his step, he rose from the bench feeling ten years younger. It was going to be a great trip!

Like to join Linked to Life? Call Mrs. Miller at 718 853 8400

 

 

 

Dementia: Us and Them

October 3, 2018

pr-colorful_question_mark_vector_set_148455We 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.

When you asked her to join you for a cup of coffee, she refused. Not even her favorite Danish to go with it tempted her. In fact, it seemed that she was frightened. Rivky, another neighbor, commented that as soon as she sat down on the park bench, Chaya jumped up, almost as if in fear, with a muttered excuse of having left the soup on the fire.

Chaya truly is scared. Spending time with a friend becomes humiliating. She feels vulnerable. She gradually withdraws from any social contact. Even her grocery orders are now faxed as she tells herself that faxing is so much more convenient than shopping at the store.  Anyways her lists are simpler these days. Not too many raw ingredients. Mostly prepared food. Following a recipe is draining. She complains about the complexity of modern cookbooks.

Can ‘us’ really morph into ‘them’?

People with early stage dementia comprise a significant segment of the population. They are in ‘twilight zone’, no longer able to fit into their former social circles yet cannot imagine themselves in a circle of senior citizens even though they are approaching or have entered the age of the senior world. Their cognitive abilities have somewhat declined but they certainly do not fit into a day care center setting for the mentally infirm.

The partial awareness that the patient has at this stage generates a sense of vulnerability and helplessness.  A protected ‘safe place’ framework is needed for those in the early stages. It is this issue that Ezer Mizion seeks to address with its Social Clubs for women at the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. These clubs serve to mitigate the withdrawal and introversion experienced by many.

Its goals are to create a program adapted to encourage the participants to engage in social interaction in spite of the disease. Equally important is the preservation of cognitive capabilities, as much as possible, via diverse multisensory activities in addition to strengthening a sense of meaning and self-worth and enhancement of participants’ quality of life. With emphasis placed on the preservation and enhancement of cognitive and social abilities, activities focus on multisensory and cognitive stimulation such as discussions on topics of interest, physical exercise, music, board games and crafts activities.

As the need is great, Ezer Mizion hopes to increase its scope of clubs in major cities throughout Israel, each one a protective haven for people experiencing the frightening trauma losing touch with the stability of day-to-day life as they had known it.