Elderly blind people who live alone must now choose between getting assistance at home or visiting day centers where they meet friends and get meals, because the government will no longer subsidize both benefits.
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For decades, thousands of elderly blind people were unable to have home assistance funded by the National Insurance Institute, because the physical tests for eligibility only considered use of extremities and not sight. However, the blind were able to make subsidized visits to day centers where they received meals and could socialize with other elderly people.
In early 2015, the Center for the Blind in Israel came to an agreement with the NII to correct this lacunae in the Nursing Care Law. It was decided that, until changes were made to the evaluation process, elderly blind people who lived alone could receive 9.75 hours of nursing care a week, the lowest amount possible, without having to pass any physical evaluations.
In recent months, however, those entitled to the benefits received notices from the Social Affairs Ministry that they will no longer be able to visit the day centers if they wanted to continue receiving home assistance; they would have to choose between the two benefits. Anyone who wanted to continue visiting the day centers would have to pay 2,500 shekels ($662) a month.
The ministry explained that the law doesn’t allow the provision of double benefits. Elderly people with other types of disabilities who get nursing care must make the same choice, it said.
Merav Hirsh, deputy director of the center for the blind, said that the state had “solved one problem but created another.” She argued that the elderly blind were not receiving double benefits because “the two things don’t have the same objective. They must choose between getting nursing hours that help them personally at home, and visiting a day center that, inter alia, provides them with a supportive social framework.”
Many of the people involved have been going to the day centers for years, and it makes no sense, after they’d been discriminated against for so long, to take it away from them, she added.
Dalia Rosink, the national Nursing Law inspector in the Social Affairs Ministry, and Vered Shaham, the national day center inspector, reiterated in a letter to the blind center that no exceptions could be made to the double-benefit rule. “As part of their visit to the day center, the elderly person gets services instead of the personal care provided by a nursing worker at home.”
The Social Affairs Ministry said that there were a number of other accessible social activities for the blind elderly at the 35 centers for the blind that the ministry operates around the country.