Personal tragedy

I admitted Naomi, my darling wife of 57 years, to the closed Alzheimer’s ward at the Orpaz Home in Beer Sheva, that is about 5 mins drive from our home.

Since we moved last Sept from Netanya we have seen a marked deterioration in Naomi’s cognitive ability.  It has become like living with an insane woman.  Everything she does, getting up in the morning, undressing, showering, drying herself, dressing, eating, has to be told to her, often against aggressive denial.  Finally I was spending at least half my time being with her. She would come into the study every 3-5 mins and check where I was, and then she would forget and check again.

Miriam and I had seen two Homes in Beer Sheva (one of the municipality) and we were not impressed with.  When we were getting the required forms prepared by our doctor (GP), we also had to see his nurse, and she told us that the Orpaz Home in Beer Sheva had a small closed Alzheimer’s ward and she highly recommended it and she had in fact put her father in there.
So we visited it and it was quite nice, although small (only 25 patients).  For Miriam it has a great advantage that she could walk there on Shabbat to visit her Ima.  We  were also impressed by the Manageress, who speaks English and was very responsive and they had a much brighter facility than the others in Beer Sheva.  Added to which it is really only 5 mins drive straight down the main road outside our house.   So we decided we wanted Naomi to go there and I gave them the required forms.
Last Monday (when Miriam was still here (before leaving for a trip to the USA and at our request) they sent their Admissions Committee to meet with Naomi, and they asked the usual questions etc. and made sure she can walk etc. and then told us she would be admitted.  On Tues I went there and signed the contract and Naomi was admitted on Weds morning.
It was of course very difficult.   At first she was very friendly and happy there and we sort of left her.  But, then a nurse tried to take her blood pressure and she got upset and shouted, so I had to go back in and tell the nurse to stop and calmed her.  Then  I had to leave her. I spent half an hour meeting with the chief nurse (a Beduin man named Wadiah) and an hour meeting with the social worker and the manageress and then the doctor (a Russian lady).  I gave them all copious details about Naomi and her pills etc. and it was all entered into their computer.
I felt guilty as if I were abandoning her, betraying her trust. I hope that they will treat her well. Finally, after many years it had to be done.

Last Inheritance, Part II

I posted a blog last Dec 13 about the last inheritance of my mother-in-law Millie Silverstein, who died at the age of 101 on Jan 21, 2017.  It is now over a year since her death and we are still waiting for her last bank account, held in the Netanya Branch of the First International (Benleumi) Bank Israel, to be paid to her heirs, her daughters Naomi, my wife, and Barbara, who lives in England.

Because the Bank would not release her money based on her will, we had to go to probate.  This took 8 months and cost NIS 7,000 for the court and the lawyer.  The Court ruled that her will was valid and appointed her elder daughter Naomi as the executor of the will.  Since Naomi has Alzheimer’s disease and I am her legal guardian (apotropus) in Israel, that in effect makes me the executor.  But, the new Bank manageress refused to release the money to me, because according to the will half the money has to go to Barbara.  Barbara then wrote to her and stated that she wanted me to receive all the money and she trusts me to pay all the expenses and then give her what is owed.  Even though she also sent a copy of her British Passport, the manageress refused to release the money.

I was naturally upset, but put her in touch with our lawyer to try to find a solution to this seemingly insuperable problem.  They came to the solution that if Barbara goes to the Israeli Embassy in London and gets someone there to witness her signature, with sufficient proof of her id and address, they will accept that.  So we had the lawyer draft a letter in Hebrew into which I inserted all the necessary data (bank a/c numbers and addresses) and that was approved by the bank manageress and then we had it translated into English, so that Barbara could know what she was signing.  Then I sent those letters to Barbara by e-mail.

She finally received an appointment to go to the Israel Embassy in London.  She was to take various documents and proof of her id, and she was to take copies of the letter in both languages to be stamped and witnessed by the official there that it was indeed Barbara who was signing it.  But, they informed her that they will not certify anything written in Hebrew!  I asked our lawyer if the Bank will accept this (i.e. English only) and they agreed (phew!)  But, when she went to the Embassy they would not give her the witnessed copies, but charged a fee to send them to her by hand delivery with a notary certification.

They promised delivery within four working days, but when they didn’t arrive after a week she called and the person who answered asked her for the locator number.  When she said she didn’t have one, she said “That’s strange, hold on,” and she went away for a few minutes and came back on-line and said “Oh, I found the envelope on my desk, they weren’t sent”!  When Barbara complained she said “You’re rude,” so Barbara replied “what about an apology for not doing your job!”  She promised to send them the next day, but they arrived a week later.  Then Barbara sent them to me by registered mail.

It arrived within a week and then I went to the Benleumi Branch in Beer Sheva to have the manager witness my signature on another copy of the same letter (the manager was retiring that day, but he found someone else to witness it) and then it was hand-delivered to our lawyer in Netanya, who took it to the Manageress of the Bank branch in Netanya.  It  took a few days and then their legal department approved the release of the funds.  Finally the funds  were transferred today and account was closed.

Note that half of the money went into Naomi’s account, and the other half Barbara  requested to go into my a/c.  So the whole process was in fact futile, since I will ultimately be the executor of all the money.  After all the expenses that were incurred by Millie are refunded, and her former carer (metapelet) is paid her severance fees, and the lawyer is paid, the total amount left for each daughter is relatively small.  Hardly worth the ridiculous, unfeeling, bureaucratic stupidity that was involved. If the Bank manager had released the money to me when I first presented him with the will in the first case, over a year of expensive legalistic nonsense would have been avoided, but with the same outcome.

PS. Chag Pesach sameach to all my loyal readers


Like pulling teeth

A few months ago I was shocked to find a large portion of a tooth in my wife’s side of the bed.  She has not complained of any pain, but since she has Alzheimer’s disease I knew it would be a problem.  I knew she would perhaps allow a dentist to look in her mouth but not do any dental work like drilling, etc.

Nevertheless we went off to the local Maccabi-dent, which we had used in Netanya.  There, since it was an emergency, a dentist looked at her immediately.  She allowed him to look in her mouth, but would not agree to having x-rays done.  He said he could not proceed without x-rays and anyway they were not equipped to deal with such patients, and since she was not in pain it was not really an emergency.

My daughter found that Yad Sarah, a voluntary organization for the disabled, has a home dental service. We contacted them and for a modest fee a dentist came.  She was very nice, she looked in Naomi’s mouth and said that to do the work would require both x-rays and probably sedation and she could not do that, so she wrote a letter to show to our doctor.  I took the letter to the doctor and he said the only place that could do dental work and x-rays under sedation was at the Soroka hospital and he wrote us a referral.

My daughter explained the situation to the Mouth Clinic at Soroka Hospital and arranged for an appointment that took several weeks.  Today we went there. and paid for the visit because Maccabi does not cover dental work other than routine procedures.  We had to wait several hours, but when we were asked to go to the nurse’s office we were met by a truly lovely lady who spoke English and told us that her mother had had AD and she knew the problem and she took Naomi’s information and by the time we left she hugged Naomi (only in Israel).

Then we went in to see the actual dentist.  He too was extremely nice and gentle and chatted with Naomi and charmed her into letting him take an x-ray, that I thought could never happen.  After seeing the x-ray he said that, as he thought, one tooth was broken off and the roots needed to be removed, requiring surgery, and a second tooth was broken and needed a filling.  They gave us an appointment in a month, since she has no pain, and under sedation a surgeon will remove the root and then he, the dentist, will do the filling.  The whole visit today took about 3 hours and was a bit like pulling teeth.  But, the real test is yet to come.

Filling the gaps

I had a cold, with running nose, cough and sore throat, for 4 days.  Tues was the first day I went to “work” (the university).  The temporary hiatus gave me a chance to think.  I decided that I would not write a blog just for the sake of it, and decided to have a rest.

I thought of writing something more personal than the usual political insights that I  send regarding Israel in the Middle East.  I have been attending a weekly group meeting for primary carers of people afflicted with both mental and physical illnesses.  This lasted for 15 sessions.  I also attended a similar group meeting in Netanya for several years.  My wife, of course, has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I found these meetings very helpful in coping with the problem and with my own feelings and reactions.  Of course, these meetings are confidential, so I won’t reveal anything about anyone else who attended.

I would just like to say that the wonderful social worker who led our group here asked us to draw several pictures of what we felt about our situation and our feelings. Some of the things I drew were quite revealing.  First, I drew what I envisaged as my problem, that I represented as a pile of stones/bricks with me looking on helplessly.  Then how we envisaged our situation, I was standing before the stones now built into a high impassable wall.  Finally, what we thought of the future, and I drew myself standing before a huge black hole, uncertain and afraid of the future.  Not very encouraging.  But, it was good to try to grapple with the situation, and also hearing the predicaments of the other participants meant that you do not feel so alone.  I was struck by the serious commitment of the other members of the group to their loved ones and I must say that engendered much hope.

Black pills

Lying on the table next to the white pills, the black pills look strange and somehow incongruous.  Yet they are therapeutic.  They are pure carbon, actually activated charcoal.  How did I come to be taking black pills?

I have suffered from digestive problems for many years, and have been on a limited diet (no milk products, no fat or oily food, no meat, no cabbage or waxy skinned vegetables).  A few months ago I had a chronic cough, that did not seem to be due to a cold.  I went to my GP and he diagnosed acid reflux as the cause and switched me from the antacid Ompradex to Lanton, which cured that problem.  However, a few months later I was again stricken with problems of acidity and went to my GP who sent me to a gastroenterologist.  He diagnosed hyper-acidity and switched me back to Ompradex.  That solved that problem.

But I still suffered from lower abdominal pain and occasional bouts (every three months or so) of throwing up, usually after a large rich meal.  The gastro had no cure for that.  At night I would often lie awake with pain, discomfort and bloating.  Should I go back to the gastroenterologist?  I decided to ask my friendly pharmacist (who happens to be an Arab).  He recommended carbon tablets as the best way to get rid of trapped gas (methane).  Carbon in the form of charcoal (not diamonds) is one of the best adsorbents.  It absorbs organic substances but also is excellent at adsorbing gas.  Previously I had used Maalox anti-gas tablets, but I had never before thought of taking carbon tablets.  Now I am taking them regularly, and they seem to be working.  The lesson is take the advice of a pharmacist before going to see a specialist.

New Appointment

Dear readers, I have been appointed a Visiting Professor for three years at the Chemistry Department of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.  I received the treasured yellow parking sticker that enables me to park anywhere on campus.  I will be pursuing research into the synthesis of chemically modified analogs of DNA in collaboration with a young member of the staff, Barak Akabeyov.  In addition, I will be helping him and others with writing grants and papers in English.  This will involve me in spending some time on the campus, which is about 10 mins drive from where we live.  I am telling you this because it might affect the time I have to write blog articles and might reduce my output.

I have been writing this blog, IsBlog, since about 2000, that is an amazing 18 years, with an almost daily posting (excluding Shabbat) since about 2013.  In fact I have posted 3,467 articles, amounting to ca. 1.6 million words.  I have already published a collection of my humorous and diy articles in a book entitled “Humorous Husbandry” that is available on   One day I would like to publish a selection of my articles about Israel and the Middle East, but time so far does not permit that.  I originally said I would continue writing these articles until there is peace between Israel and the Arabs, but that may take forever.

In fact, I have now been a Visiting Professor at all three top Universities in Israel, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and now Ben Gurion University.  I wonder how many people have had that distinction.  Also, I am now approaching the age of 80 years old (anyone who would like to see my abbreviated scientific cv can go to: ).  I must say that when I started out as a young post-doctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute in Israel in 1964 I never expected that I would still be engaged in active research at this advanced age.  One never knows what adventures lie ahead.

Last inheritance

This story concerns my mother-in-law Millie Silverstein’s last inheritance.   She died last January at the age if 101, and since she lasted so long, money had of course to be found to pay for her stay in the nursing home in Netanya.  The monthly maintenance fee and the cost of the carer (metapelet) was several thousand dollars per month.  This was excluding the cost of food and the room that was paid from an escrow account from the money from selling her apartment.

Millie was always an excellent saver and was very frugal, and she managed to save two UK accounts, one for each daughter. When her own funds in Israel ran out, these funds were used to pay for her expenses.  Luckily each daughter was a co-signator of her a/c, so it was easy to liquidate them and transfer them to Israel.  As her apotropus (legal guardian) in Israel I was well aware that the funds were running low, and when she died there was a bit over NIS 100,000 (ca. $30,000) in her a/c.  I had to inform the bank of her demise and give them a copy of her death certificate and then they immediately froze the a/c.  So I was not able to pay some of her final expenses from it, and I paid them myself.  Also, the bank would not release the money without a court order, so we had to probate her will.

Of course the court took many months and required further documents, and then further months.  Until a few weeks ago we received the court’s decision, her will is valid and they appointed Naomi (her oldest daughter) as the trustee, but since I am Naomi’s apotropus, I can be the trustee in her place.  I went to the branch of the bank in Beer Sheva where we now live and saw the manager, and he said it should be a straightforward case, but he cannot handle it, I will have to return to the branch in Netanya where the account is located.

It took two weeks for the original official letter from the court to be mailed from Netanya to Beersheva. I was informed by the manager of the branch of the bank in Beersheva that all I need is the court letter and the original of my legal appointment as Naomi’s guardian.  But, after travelling to Netanya (2 hrs each way) the Manageress of the branch there read the documents carefully and decided that she could not decide and release the funds and said she will let the bank’s legal department consider the case.  Very frustrating, but stay tuned.

PS. Because life intervenes I have not been as active posting blogs as usual.  I had medical tests and a trip to Netanya (as above).  More soon.