Caregiver Melanie Valvez did not really understand what was happening when the 85-year-old woman she is currently caring for began to accuse her of stealing, but thanks to an innovative new six-week course at the University of Haifa she now realizes that her patient was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
"She accused me of being a thief, I did not really understand that it was not her talking but the disease," said Valvez, who came from the Philippines to work in Israel two years ago.
Valvez, 35, is one of 45 Filipino workers who enrolled recently in a specially designed program aimed at enhancing home care skills and the level of assistance given by Filipinos working with the elderly.
"The course has been very helpful," Valvez said. "There were basic things that I did not know about old people and how their age can affect their minds. Now I have a better understanding and it helps me to avoid arguments with my patient."
Sponsored by university's Interdisciplinary Clinical Center together with home care company Masad, the workshop is trying to improve dialogue between workers and family members, ultimately improving the patient's quality of life.
"It teaches and introduces the characteristics and needs of the elderly population, and their limitations," said Dr. Rivka Yahav, head of the ICC. "It provides the workers with knowledge and skills based in the area of home health care and raises awareness in the area of risk prevention related to falling, nutrition, abuse and neglect.
"In order for the care to become more effective, there is a need to match and bridge the gap between the reality of life in Israel and the reality of life in the countries of their origin. Different cultural norms influence their abilities to adapt to life in Israel," Yahav added.
The workshop, which is now in its fourth week, is run by staff from the Gerontology Department at the university. Participants have so far received lectures from numerous experts in the field and experienced a variety of hands-on activities.
The ICC at the University of Haifa is under the supervision of the university's School of Social Work and its Departments of Gerontology, Occupational Therapy, Communications Disorders, Physiotherapy, and Human Services.