Finance Ministry prompted to do more to prevent abuse at old age homes

Kahlon: "When I saw the elder abuse report, I imagined they were beating my mother"

An elderly woman. [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
An elderly woman. [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Monday he will allocate funding to oversee, regulate and deter workers to prevent future abuse of institutionalized elderly, as in the current Haifa abuse case.
“Like the rest of the people of Israel, I was shocked when I watched the reports about helpless elders’ abuse,” he said in a faction meeting at the Knesset on Monday. “Honor your father and your mother is not a recommendation, it’s an obligation of all of us.”
“When I saw the report, I imagined that he was hitting my mother,” he said. “Each and every one of us, including our leaders and judges, should feel as if those criminals were beating up their parents and treat this issue accordingly.
“As the finance minister, I informed the rest of the cabinet that I am willing to transfer money to whomever is needed to prevent these kind of cases.”
Kahlon called upon the law enforcement authorities to hunt down the criminals and put them to trial. “This is our duty as government to stop this phenomenon. We owe it to our parents and to ourselves,” he said.
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) also addressed the findings of the report and said the government should account for this failure. “I think that if there is one thing that unifies all the citizens of Israel these days it is the shock from these reports,” she said at the faction meeting.
“It is clear now that this government is failing to provide its citizens the most basic need – personal security. The fact that the government is allowing elderly citizens to get to this situation is disgraceful,” Michaeli said.
Kahlon’s promise to remedy the abuse situation followed an urgent appeal by Health Minister Ya’acov to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahlon to deal with elderly abuse in geriatric institutions that met with no response. On Monday Litzman released the text of a new letter he sent them demanding action.
The issue has been raised again as a result of a Channel 2 report featuring a hidden-camera sequence of helpless patients being beaten, cursed and abused in a private Haifa institution, Neot Kipat Hazav.
Litzman wrote the two ministers that more money must be allocated to raise the salaries of institutional carers who earn minimum wages; to install security cameras throughout the institutions, to add 95 manpower slots for ministry inspectors, to raise permits for foreign workers and to increase the manpower standards for nursing.
The health minister also called on Netanyahu and Kahlon to back his plan for national geriatric nursing insurance for the whole population.
After holding a hearing for owners and administrators of Neot Kipat Hazahav on Sunday by the Haifa District Health Office, it was decided that the facility will have to apply for a new, temporary, three-month license only. It will not be able to admit new patients until further notice.
Five senior administrators will be replaced by other staff members only after agreement from the ministry.
In addition, it was decided that auxiliary workers would be added during night shifts and a general night nurse would tour all the departments and prepare a daily report on her work and findings.
The ministry added that it will help every family with a loved one in the geriatric hospital to move to another institution.
Meanwhile, Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkoren said the state has “abandoned the elderly and disabled population in the last 20 years. We will not hesitate to fight or them.” In a Knesset discussion, he said old-age pensions must be linked to the average wage and not to inflation. “There must be a national geriatric nursing law. These are our red flags, and they will be a revolution.”
Dr. Tova Band-Winterstein of the faculty of welfare and health sciences at the University of Haifa said that elderly abuse is becoming a daily occurrence in institutions, not only among some institutional caregivers but also by family members. “In the last 16 years of research, I have witnessed high risk for the helpless elderly, who are widely regarded as a burden. It doesn’t occur everywhere, but there are ‘dark areas’ that have to be enlightened.”
Ariel University has just released a new study on elder abuse that examined the factors that influence the seeking of help from professionals such as social workers in cases of violence and abuse.
Dr. Maya Kagan and Dr. Esther Zichlinsky of the school of social work questioned 533 Jews aged 21 and above and their willingness to contact social workers for advice and help. A total of 32.1% said they would not contact social workers even if they needed their help in the future. In addition, personal factors such as gender and level of religious observance affect the decision among many of them to consult with professionals.
Women are more likely than men to turn for help, as are religious people compared to the secular.
Zichlinsky said the results of the study present a “worrisome picture because a significant amount of the public will not consult social workers.
Part of this is the result of the relatively poor image of social workers,” she said. This may be due to a preference for informal advice from family members and friends.
The Midor Le’dor organization called for a demonstration outside the Health Ministry in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood on Monday. “We will not allow this issue of elderly abuse to fall from the public agenda,” said Nir Yissachar, the head of the organization, which has tens of thousands of volunteers around the country to promote intergenerational conversations and activities.