Judge Slams Israel Policy Forcibly Relocating Elderly to Nursing Homes

Experts say the policy effecting hundreds of elderly who wish to remain at home for their last years is outmoded, wasteful of government resources and smacks of ageism

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A caregiver with an elderly Israeli woman in Tel Aviv (illustrative).
A caregiver with an elderly Israeli woman in Tel Aviv (illustrative). Credit: Ariel Shalit
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The family affairs court in Be’er Sheva has rejected the state’s request to remove a 95-year-old woman from her home and place her in a nursing home against her will.

On Wednesday, Judge Alon Gabizon ordered the state to come up with a treatment plan for the woman under which she could remain at home.

He also harshly criticized the policy of the health and social affairs ministries not to fund full-time care at home but only in a nursing home, even when the person is physically able to remain at home and wishes to do so, and even though home care is less expensive.

The Justice Ministry department that provides legal aid to the elderly and represented the woman in the Be’er Sheva case said the decision set a precedent and would affect other cases. The department said it might petition the High Court on the matter, adding that there were hundreds of elderly poor people living alone whom the state wanted to remove from their homes against their will.

By law, a guardian may be appointed for an elderly person to act to remove the person from the home, even without the person’s consent. A welfare official can also intervene to place a person in a nursing facility even against his or her will if the official believes that the mental or physical well-being of the person might be “seriously compromised by lack of proper treatment.”

In such cases, the state covers the cost of care. But at present it will cover costs only in a treatment facility, even though it would be less expensive to fund a full-time foreign caregiver in the home of the elderly person.

Meital Segal-Reich, who heads the department for legal aid to the elderly, said the policy was wasteful of government resources, outmoded and smacked of ageism. “The policy of ignoring elderly people’s desire to end their life in their own home is unacceptable,” she said.

The cost of maintaining an elderly person in a nursing facility is 14,000 shekels ($3,975) to 18,000 shekels a month, while funding a foreign caregiver at home is around 7,500 shekels a month. In the case at the Be’er Sheva court, the woman has a state-funded caregiver for four hours a day on weekdays only. Twice a day, a 70-year-old neighbor cares for her on a volunteer basis.

The organization appointed by the state as the woman’s guardian asked the court to have her put in a nursing care facility, claiming that she required 24-hour-a-day institutional care for the weak and mentally impaired.

The woman’s Justice Ministry-appointed attorney, Ella Sheinfeld, told the court that her client vehemently opposed leaving her home. She said that on a visit to the home it was clear the woman was content, the house was clean and the woman was eating the food prepared for her by her part-time caregiver.

During the hearing, a social worker said she feared for the woman’s welfare if she remained in her home. The judge asked her how she could be certain that the woman would fare better in a nursing facility, and the social worker responded that she trusted the Health Ministry’s oversight.

In his ruling the judge wrote that he was not sure the state’s oversight of such facilities could be depended on.

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