Help keep Holocaust survivors out of long-term care facilities, panelists urge Congressional lawmakers

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Strenuous efforts should be made to provide aging Holocaust survivors with home care, because institutional settings tend to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder for this group, experts told lawmakers at a recent hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Home healthcare topped the list when the committee chairman, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), asked panelists which services are at the “forefront” of their concern.

“Mostly to see to it that they … would get all the necessary services that they could live out their lives at home,” responded Jack Rubin, a survivor who was representing the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA.

Panelist Anat Bar-Cohen concurred. Bar-Cohen, whose parents survived the Holocaust, is co-president of The Generation After Inc. and a coordinating council member of Generations of The Shoah International. 

Rubin, Bar-Cohen and other panelists painted vivid pictures of the difficulties that survivors have when they move into institutional settings. Being confined and receiving instruction or orders from uniformed personnel can trigger highly disturbing memories or even PTSD. Routine events such as visiting the shower room or being asked to fill out paperwork also can be triggers, and effects often are amplified for those with dementia.

Enabling Holocaust survivors to age at home presents many challenges, the panelists acknowledged. Survivors' medical needs often are even more complex than is typical in seniors, due to enduring harsh conditions in concentration camps and other settings during the war.

Rubin was blunt, saying that home care for survivors “takes a lot of money.”

While panelists all pressed Congress to pursue domestic policies that would enable Holocaust survivors to live in the most appropriate settings, they also noted that the financial burden should not rest on the U.S. government alone. Germany has made financial reparations to survivors, but these should be more generous to help offset healthcare costs as survivors age, some panelists argued.

“The money is there,” Rubin said. “Germany is a very successful country.”

Click here to access a video of the hearing and panelists' written testimony.

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