(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Families with a disabled member do not receive the support they need to cope with the hardships and the stigma, according to a new report published Sunday by the Joint Distribution Committee's unit for disabilities and rehabilitation and Haifa University.
The findings, which were released to coincide with Israel's Family Day on Monday, found that while the majority of Israel's disabled community live at home with their relatives - spouses, children or parents - there are virtually no state-sponsored resources and very few community support groups to help such families.
"There are policies in place to provide assistance to the disabled individual but there is little thought for the family that supports that individual," said Dr. Dvora Gilad, from the university's School of Social Work, who authored the report. "Our society does not give thought to the families that live and care for the chronically ill or disabled.
"Life is highly stressful for families with disabled members," she continued, adding that many families suffer from severe loneliness or adopt the same stigmas of the disabled person living with them.
Avital Sandler-Loeff, head of the JDC's unit for disabilities and rehabilitation, said she hoped the study would raise awareness to the difficulties faced by families with a disabled person and propel the government and the community into action.
"When a person becomes disabled later on, life for the whole family changes not just for the one who is disabled," she explained. "A person with disabilities impacts on everyone around them."
Sandler-Loeff noted that 91 percent of Israel's disabled community lives at home with their families, with 56% being married and more than half also being parents.
"Most people think that the disabled live in sheltered institutions or alone but actually most live in the community," she said. "Parents with disabilities need special support, help and guidance in how to raise their children. They need to be able to take an important role in their children's lives."
In the early 90s, Israel's disabled community raised its profile during a series of protests outside the Knesset, ultimately pushing the government to provide them with more resources, she said. Now disabled people realize that if they want to live independently of formal institutions then they need the full support of their families too.
"The family is a main resource for this community," continued Sandler-Loeff. "If they want their lives to improve then we all need to pay attention to their families too."
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