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A Filipina caregiver came to Israel in order to take care of an old lady, a diabetic whose leg was amputated. Five years ago, when the nurse came to Israel, the patient's condition was relatively well. Her second leg was strong, as were her hands. When she had to get up, she could assist the caregiver, who had to help her move from one chair to another. Part of the caregiver’s duty included escorting the patient to the hospital in order to receive dialysis treatments. It wasn’t easy, but as long as the lady was strong enough to help the caregiver, it was possible to help her get into the cab.

In the last 6 months the lady got weaker, so it was harder for the caregiver to help her move from one place to another. The patient couldn’t help the caregiver anymore, so the caregiver had to carry the patient to move her from the wheelchair into the cab, than from the cab back to the wheelchair, and later into her home and bath. More than once the patient accidentally fell to the floor. The most difficult part was driving to the hospital. The weak patient was thrown helplessly onto the cab seat. Moreover, getting her out of the cab became practically impossible. Moreover, the caregiver started suffering back problems. Her doctor told her not to carry heavy loads.

The caregiver asked the patient and her son to use an ambulance to travel to and from the hospital, so she will be able to keep caring for the patient. The answer of the patient and her son was that ambulance transfer is too expensive, and that if the nurse can't take care of the patient anymore, she is more than welcome to pick up her stuff and leave. They will find someone else. At first they thought of hiring a man, who would have the strength to carry the patient, but the man stayed for two days and left. He couldn’t deal with the burden.

When the working relations between the patient and the caregiver ended, the caregiver asked the son to pay her severance pay. The son told her that since she quit, she doesn’t deserve any. He claimed that the fact that his mother's condition got worse is not relevant.

The number of old people in Israel is 708,000. Among them, 679,680 live in their community. 14% of those who live in a community, about 95,000, can't move by themselves, and are actually grounded to their homes. These people need someone to turn them over in their beds, to wash them, to escort them to the doctor and to push their wheelchair. When the treatment is done by a foreign caregiver, he or she is doing all this by themselves, often handling a weight higher than their own. In care institutions such activities would be performed by two people.

Hauling heavy burdens is a well known cause of work related accidents. Many countries have limited the burden which a person is allowed to carry, be it by picking it up with his or her hands or by pushing it. For example, following the instructions of the ILO, the maximal weight allowed to be picked up by hands is half of the carrier's body wait. The American standard is stricter, and doesn’t allow one person to carry more than 16 kilos.

In the work contract drawn by agencies dealing with bringing and assigning caregivers, no reference to the subject was found, although some of the agencies do recommend the use of machines. But that’s simply a recommendation, and it's not enforced. In the old diabetic lady’s case, domestic machinery would not be of any use. The back pains that caregivers suffer due to picking people up are another symptom of our disdain for their quality of life. They will probably keep on suffering from back problems for the rest of their life. They came here to work, and that’s what they should do! We wouldn’t agree, of course, that an Israeli worker will carry a burden heavier than his body weight. No one would agree to do that. But migrant workers are willing to do it. If not, they are asked to pack their stuff and leave. We have no more interest in them.

by: Irit Porat, Kav LaOved
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