Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Manual Helps Families, Health-Care Workers Care for Holocaust Survivors

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Manual Helps Families, Health-Care Workers Care for Holocaust Survivors

Article excerpt

TORONTO (CP) - When Holocaust survivor Chana Szabo stands on the streets of Toronto and hears the clamour of a passing commuter train, she is terrified because it reminds her of Auschwitz.

That ordinary noise - barely distinguishable above the urban din _ immediately takes her back to the infamous death camp in Poland where she arrived on a crammed cargo train during the Second World War. She was 25 then.

Now in her mid-80s, her memories are still vivid and leave her shaken. But she says socializing with other Holocaust survivors at a local seniors' centre brings her comfort because she is not alone.

"It's hard not to remember but you never forget," Szabo said Wednesday in a mix of English and Hebrew. "I dream in the night that they (Nazis) are coming to take me and I run and run."

Szabo is one of the lucky ones because she still has her short-term memory intact, said staff at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, home to about 500 Holocaust survivors. Other elderly survivors, especially those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, cannot separate the past from the present.

That means the sights, sounds and smells of daily life - such as heavy winter boots clomping down a hall or a doctor wearing a white lab coat _ can trigger panic, stress and a flood of painful memories.

That's why Baycrest staff launched a manual Wednesday to help families and health-care workers care for aging Holocaust survivors. It gives practical advice on dealing with such "triggers" and guiding patients through their daily routines.

"It's very sad, but our work is far from over," said Paula David, senior social worker and Baycrest's Holocaust resource project co-ordinator.

The manual, Caring for Aging Holocaust Survivors, is already in high international demand. In the last two weeks, more than 500 copies were shipped to health-care facilities on every continent. …

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