Elderly couple (illustrative).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the instruction of Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, inspectors from his ministry began a nationwide operation with surprise inspections of 129 nursing homes late Wednesday night and on Thursday in an effort to locate elderly people suffering from neglect or abuse.
The operation, aptly named “Do not cast me away in old age,” followed national outrage over a Channel 2 exposé earlier this week that documented abuse, assault and threats against the elderly by employees at the Neot Kipat Hazahav nursing home in Haifa.
“The last sights that we were exposed to show a loss of humanity,” Katz said on Thursday. “We must make sure that institutions of the Social Services Ministry will give professional service and with great compassion.”
Katz said he instructed his office to “comprehensively examine the level of welfare services granted to the elderly.
Unfortunately,” he said, “the state has disposed of its sanity and, as such, we must maintain an orderly enforcement mechanism with a clear methodology and zero tolerance for harm of its wards.”
As part of the operation, two inspectors at each nursing home: toured the facilities; examined the dynamic between the patients and the staff, the quality of food served and cleanliness; conducted interviews with senior staff on duty; and randomly selected four elderly occupants.
While findings of the operation have not yet been released, Galit Mevorach, director of the Service for the Elderly at the ministry, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that for the most part the ministry was satisfied with the findings and that no significant cases of abuse were found on a scale of the Haifa nursing home.
She added, however: “There are a few nursing homes that we will have to keep a closer eye on and follow up with in the near future.”
Mevorach said abuse in Israel is a difficult problem that is not only among the elderly, but across all sectors of society, including children and families.
“It is hard to eradicate the phenomenon of abuse, which is unfortunately, ingrained in society, especially among the elderly, whose voices sometimes cannot be heard,” she said.
“Having said that, the ministry invests a lot to try to ensure that abuse of the elderly doesn’t happen.”
According to Mevorach, her service runs some 70 units to help identify and investigate allegations of abuse against the elderly, and works with social workers and nursing home staff to curb the phenomenon.
“It is important to say that the phenomenon of abuse is something we need to do everything to prevent, and anyone who hears about abuse against the elderly can and should contact the police,” she said. “There should not be any elderly people who are the victims of abuse in the State of Israel.”