Rise in number of isolated elderly dying without anyone knowing

Since last year, there has been a 33% increase in cases of people with no family whose death went undetected for days or even weeks; phenomenon worsened due to coronavirus lockdown, with 59 bodies discovered since start of 2020

Amir Alon|
The coroanvirus has led to many elderly people facing daily life alone due to restrictions meant to protect them - but for some without families these rules mean dying alone and forgotten as well as living alone.
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  • According to ZAKA, since the start of 2020 there has been a 33% increase in the number of elderly, often without families, dying without anyone being aware and getting found only days or even weeks after passing away.
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    Body of elderly man discovered days after death evacuated by ZAKA in Ofakim
    (Photo: ZAKA)
    In the past 12 days alone, the bodies of 20 such victims have been discovered, with 59 bodies discovered since the start of the year. For comparison, since the start of 2019 until the month of May, only 44 victims had been recorded.
    "During the lockdown, those living alone with no family ties become even more secluded than ever because their neighbors keep away, afraid to even knock on their doors to make sure they were fine," said a volunteer in the ZAKA - Identification, Extraction and Rescue organization.
    Among the latest victims who fall into this category is Magda Graif, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor was found in her apartment in Be'er Sheva two weeks after she had passed away, having slipped in her bath and suffering a blow to the head.
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    מכתב שכתבה ניצולת השואה מגדה גרייס
    מכתב שכתבה ניצולת השואה מגדה גרייס
    Magda who was found two weeks after she had died at home alone
    (Photo: Julietta Nachman)
    She had attached a letter to her front door, in which she wrote that she was living alone and had no family. "Please care for my birds," she wrote referring to six birds she kept in three cages.
    In the central city of Petach Tikvah, authorities found a 70-year old woman who had died, while her mentally disabled daughter for days sat near her mother's body, not understanding that she had passed away.
    "People don't know the tragedies behind their neighbors' doors," one Zaka volunteer said, "Sometimes they could have prevented these deaths. We had a case recently when neighbors worried that they had not seen a woman living alone, they broke down her door and found her unconscious. She was hospitalized in a very serious condition," he said.
    "We had a case of a 43-year old man who had committed suicide but was discovered only three weeks later," the volunteer went on to say, " It is a problem when people live alone and there is no one who cares about them. We, as a country, must not allow such things to happen."
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    טירת הכרמל
    טירת הכרמל
    Zaka volunteer on his way to the home of a solitary person who had died
    (Photo: Zaka)
    Social services officials said they get involved mostly when people are suffering from poverty or domestic violence and have little information about those who are living alone with no family ties. "People often refuse to ask for help and we must rely on caring neighbors and acquaintances to inform us of a person in need. It is very sad," one official said.
    Labor and Social Services Minister Itzik Shmuli said he had instructed his ministry to work with local authorities and submit an immediate plan to rectify the situation, "It is our basic moral duty," he said.
    Zaka initiated a project whereby they call people over 65, that they know are on their own, every day to maintain contact and make sure they are alright. The organization said it is a vital effort especially now, when the elderly population is asked to remain at home fearing their vulnerability if infected by coronavirus.
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