A Happy Holiday to the 87-year-old Woman, Unable to Find Help in Israel

Let's say this woman will go on breaking her back and her knee and what's left of her life, to care by herself for the man she has lived with for 70 years. And let's say the state is unwilling to help. Would you wish that country a happy holiday?

Let’s say that she is 87, going on 88. That her 90-year-old husband had a stroke eight years ago. That she takes care of him almost on her own. That he is incapable of moving, and lies in bed with his mouth open nearly all day and all night long. That his memory comes and goes, but mainly goes. That she insists on taking him out to the living room once a day, to let him sit there, staring into space that is not the bedroom. That he cannot eat any solid food so she liquidizes everything for him. That he cannot use the toilet and cannot bathe, and so she bathes him and changes his diapers. That she can’t leave him for a moment and so she has not left the house for
several years.

And let’s say that everyone tells her to put him in a nursing home, that it’s a pity for her, that she will collapse, that it would be better for everyone that way. And that she is unwilling even to hear of the idea, and says they are talking about the man she has lived with for 70 years, so how can they even contemplate this? There is no chance she would let other people take care of him.

And let’s say that she was a strong person until not long ago, very strong. And that a few years ago her knee gave out and they inserted a plate in it, and then her back began to curve. That at first she thought it was because of winter, and that in the summer it would go away, but summer arrived and the back grew more bent, so now it is hard to walk, and hard to sit and hard to get up. And let’s say that her 90-year-old husband is still lying in bed and cannot move. Only now she is having a hard time, too.

And let’s say that all these years she has insisted on not getting help, saying she can manage alone, that everything’s fine, to just leave her be.

That slowly, slowly, that feeling of being fine crumbles, along with the back that bends and the knee that gives out. That pain brings on anger, and the anger brings on a temper, and the temper brings on sadness, and frustration and bitterness.

And let’s say that now the woman of 87, going on 88, begins to break down, and that, at a certain stage, pride makes way for reality. That she contacts the National Insurance Institute and asks for help, a few hours a day, no more, because she is incapable of moving, and incapable of lifting things, and nearly incapable of walking, sitting and getting up − and because for several years now she has been incapable of shopping for groceries, leaving the house, seeing daylight.

And let’s say the NII sends out a social worker, who goes to the house. That the social worker asks the woman of 87, going on 88, if she can come closer for a moment. That the woman approaches the social worker, who asks if she is capable of bathing herself. That the woman says she is, but only barely. That the social worker asks if she is continent, and although the woman is incontinent, is embarrassed, so she says that yes, she is continent.

And let’s say that after a few minutes it turns out the woman is not eligible for NII aid. That when she tries to figure out why, it becomes clear that the fact she managed, albeit with difficulty, to deal with the social worker, and the fact that she is capable of bathing, and the fact that she said she is continent − all these things indicated she has not passed the institute’s “dependency test.”

In other words, let’s say that the old woman will go on breaking her back and her knee and what’s left of her life, to care by herself for the man she has lived with for 70 years.

And let’s say that you lived in a country like that, which is unwilling to help a woman of 87, going on 88, to accompany her 90-year-old husband on his final journey. Would you wish that country a happy holiday?

Alex Levac