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Leah Abramowitz

Leah Abramowitz

Leah Abramowitz is a geriatric social worker with more than 30 years experience. She founded a day center, called Melabev, for the cognitively impaired in Jerusalem and the vicinity. She is also a free lance writer and the author of "Tales of Nehama", on the late biblical scholar Professor Nehama Leibowitz.

Q Dear WholeFamily Counsellor, My son married a girl who is not his type. She has a very crude side, swears sometimes, and does not have his level of education. I have gotten used to the idea that they are married and there is nothing I can do other than to be nice to her when she is inside my home. The problem is that she is pregnant now and I am afraid of how she will bring up my grandchildren. She is not basically a bad person, but is very sensitive whenever I offer suggestions.

Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I'm seventy-eight years old, and lost my husband a half-year ago. He was my second husband, but we had been married twenty-five years. In many ways, it was more difficult than the death of my first husband, because then I had a goal. I had to raise my children. Now, I just feel empty. I find it hard to pull myself together, just to get dressed and go out. Nothing seems worth the effort. What difference does it make? We're all going to die anyway. My children encourage me to go back to my volunteer work, reading to the blind. I know it's wrong, but I just don't feel like helping anyone.

As people live longer and retire earlier, the third stage in life, euphemistically called "the golden age" or other such pretentious titles, often stretches out like an empty expanse before the newly retired. He (and certainly she) can expect to live twenty or thirty years after retirement, but the question in "modern society" is how to fill those years? In western society, addicted to the Protestant work ethic, people are afraid to grow old, to be unproductive. After all, for many years, their identity was closely tied up with what they did.

It's a common occurrence. You meet a new neighbor by the apartment mailboxes. Just as you're chatting, another neighbor comes by and you want to introduce them. BLANK. You can't remember either one's name! You tell the plumber you'll leave the key at your neighbor's house because you have to be at work. The sink has been blocked all week and you're having guests over for the weekend. As you leave the house you're busy planning your workday and how you'll avoid the traffic jams they've just announced over the radio.

Old people use medical services much more than any other segment of the population. Yet many of them are dissatisfied with their family doctor or go "shopping" and continuously try a new specialist, a different type of treatment or alternatively, due to lack of trust, stop going to any doctor. Yet there are some very competent, well-trained and empathetic doctors available in every community. Some of them are general practitioners and some have specialized in geriatric medicine. A physician who has certain characteristics is most likely to succeed with the older patient.

Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I am in my sixties. So is my husband. I feel deeply connected to him. But I feel flat sexually. I just don't have the energy for it anymore. What should I do? Concerned About Sex at Sixty A Dear Concerned About Sex at Sixty, Throughout the life of a normal, healthy person there are ups and downs in our sexual desires. People who are harried, worried or under extreme emotional stress often feel flat about sex. As we grow older we can still enjoy sex but sometimes the drive is somewhat muted. This can be due to physical factors, or the reasons mentioned above. There are specialists in the field who can be consulted -- guidance counselors, sexologists and neurologists and they have means of assisting those concerned about the problem.

Read about how Sabina, the cargiver, Janet, the daycare center director and Bernard, the son, feel. See Part I about how David, the patient and Rachel, the wife feel. Sabina, the caregiver: I don't know how to manage that man. He's really very difficult. I came to be a caregiver from the Philippines. My sister and my aunt are also caregivers and they found me this position. I thought I'd have to help an old man walk, and go to the toilet; maybe feed him, and dress him, but this man is not disabled physically.

Read about how David, the patient and Rachel, the wife feel. Read Part II and see how Sabina, the cargiver, Janet, the daycare center director and Bernard, the son, feel. David: I feel lost. I know I'm in a familiar place. I know these people around me, but I can't seem to remember their names. They're always asking me to do things, or not to do things -- and I'm always disappointing them. That woman, the one who calls me "dear", but seems so tense and nervous lately -- she's not my mother, but she's very central in this place.

One of the most common problems faced by adult children of aging parents is the dilemma, "How much do I owe my immediate family, the nuclear unit, vs. how much do I owe my aging parents, especially if they are in need?" As we can see from the dialogue under discussion, a great deal of misunderstanding and conflict can arise around this question. In certain cases, especially among traditional cultures, where generations live together, it is accepted that the daughters and daughters-in-law naturally assume the task of caring for the elder members of the extended family. Since there are usually several female adults in these households, childcare, parent care, cooking and housekeeping can be divided up and the stream of life goes on undisturbed.

The club room in a suburban nursing home gradually filled up with elderly women and one old gent. Some came laboriously into the room on walkers,others used canes, but most entered slowly on their own steam. They didn't talk much to each other and one gray haired woman promptly fell asleep.

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