Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The picture: Explanation below
At the insistence of my husband and the social worker at my daughter's school, I visited a Jerusalem day center for adults with severe disabilities recently. It's  one of three such options for that population in this city.

I had already debriefed my husband after he toured the center several weeks ago  The social worker came along as did my husband who drove us since it was just shortly after my cataract surgery. It was his second visit to the place and he had already conveyed to me in no uncertain terms the extent of its awfulness. But the idea was for me to forget all that and assess it with an open mind.

My concerted  efforts to do that were to no avail and I was, to put it delicately, shocked.  Both by what we saw and what we were told by the director.

The small room we were shown was filled with eight people lying on thin mats - women around Chaya's size and age alongside middle-aged men.

Two aides were on duty - changing the diapers and clothing, escorting to the toilet whoever is capable, and feeding two meals per day to eight entirely-dependent individuals for eight hours.

Needless to say, that is a  totally consuming burden even for skilled employees. And these aides didn't come close to that description. There was no doubt that not even on their best day could they find the time, energy or desire to do what the director maintained they do i.e. to exercise the people in their care as instructed by the physiotherapist.

Now I fully understand why the director told us that "truthful hyperbole" (to borrow a phrase from Tump's book, The Art of the Deal): Because there are only two physiotherapists for the entire center who give each person a half hour of therapy per week!

When I commiserated that her center is so budget-strapped and wouldn't it be wonderful if it were funded as generously as institutions are, she said: "It wouldn't help. Because it isn't a question of finances. There's just a dearth of therapists willing to work with people as disabled as these."

I argued that a generous salary would undoubtedly entice more applicants.

She disagreed. "They don't even ask about salary; just run the other way when they hear with whom they'll be working."

In any case, on both this and my husband's previous visit, the charges were sprawled  on those mattresses at 11:30am!.

And now to explain my על חטא:

On our way out of the room and contrary to my husband's explicit urgings not to, I snapped one photo of the class. After one of the aides  summoned her back into the room and "dobbed me in", the director rebuked me for invading  the privacy of the people in the photo. But when I showed it to her, she didn't demand a delete, agreed it was innocuous and in turn assuaged the aide.

I was then scolded by my husband and by the social worker who both maintained that I had, in effect, been magnanimously invited into somebody's home and had betrayed their hospitality. The director, they said, would now be suspicious that I had visited with the intention of reporting on the visit.

I apologized to everybody but nevertheless offered this contrary take:

The day centers are a service offered by our government. So why bar potential consumers from recording what's happening behind the center's closed doors? After all, the charges cared for there are incapable of relating their experiences. And our oral testimony isn't worth very much. It's so easily denied. With faces absent or blurred, where's the crime in a photograph?

Readers, please weigh in. I'd love to hear what you think.

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