Saturday, August 18, 2007

Growing Pains

JERUSALEM - A middle-aged man, in the midst of a divorce, loses his job and asks if he can move in with his elderly, widowed mother - for just a short time until he gets organized. As the days turn into weeks, he slowly but surely begins to take over her small apartment. Mom can't watch TV or move around freely in the apartment because he sleeps on the sofa - both day and night. So he suggests that he move to the bedroom and she sleep on the sofa.

Then, he offers to do her shopping and buy her medicine, but he has no money. So he asks for her credit card. He also offers to do her banking and takes control of her money. As time goes on and he still has no job, he begins to get nervous and starts to yell at her, threatening to put her in home if she protests. He fires the caregiver who comes a few times a week to help - isolating mom even more.

As his outbursts become increasingly violent, his anguished mother, now totally dependent on him, is torn between complex feelings of guilt, love and self-preservation.

Despite recent headlines about institutional abuse by caregivers or violence against the elderly by strangers, the film presents what is, unfortunately, the true face of elder abuse in Israel today: a family affair.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines elder abuse as "a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring in a framework in which there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."

"In the Israeli survey, a very wide definition was used that included neglect," Stollman continues. "Other countries look only at physical, psychological and financial abuse."

"Almost all the abuse is by family members. It is sad that the very people who should be the support system of the elderly are the ones abusing them."

"Most of our cases involve emotional and economic abuse by a family member.

ONE OF the biggest problems in treating the problem of elder abuse is lack of awareness.

To report abuse, dial 100 to contact the police or 106 for the Jerusalem Municipality . For assistance or information: Ken Lezaken - 623-1156 or 652-0197; Yad Riva - 1-700-501-400; Municipal Seniors' Hotline - 1-700-700120.

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