Anton Muhajir, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Mon, 03/23/2009 1:24 PM | BaliIt was 5 p.m. at the Panti Sosial Tresna Werdha Wana Seraya elderly nursing home in Kesiman, East Denpasar district, when 85-year-old Ni Ketut Suntreg whispered – to her volunteer caretaker Tri Sukristawati – she wanted a bath.
Suntreg was sitting with her friend on the veranda of one of several pavilions in the nursing home, before Tri took her to bathe.
Another two of Suntreg’s friends were lying on a bed nearby, while six other elderly people were sitting on Anggrek Home’s porch, on the pavilion’s northern side. All of them were around 60 to 94 years old.
Tri swiftly took Suntreg on her plastic wheelchair to a bathroom and pulled Suntreg’s clothes off one by one, including her adult diaper.
Wearing gloves, Tri washed Suntreg’s wrinkled skin to make it clean and sweet-smelling.
Ten minutes later, Tri brought Suntreg back to her bed where she spent most of her days, covered Suntreg’s entire body with baby oil and dressed her. Before calling it a day, Tri cleaned up the room.
Tri was not the only one in the room looking after the elderly. Another volunteer, Maria, was also there to fold clothes, do the laundry, clean up rooms and prepare meals.
But on Wednesday, the day of Galungan festivities, Tri and Maria were the only two volunteers working at the nursing home that looks after 49 elderly people.
“Other staff members are celebrating Galungan. They stopped by in the morning to help us serve meals, but after that, they went to the temples to pray,” said Tri.
Neither Tri nor Maria are permanent employees of the nursing home. Tri is a volunteer hired by the Yayasan Kemanusiaan Ibu Pertiwi (YKIP) foundation, while Maria is an honorary employee.
“I can’t be a permanent worker because I am illiterate,” said Maria.
According to Tresna Werdha Wana Seraya service coordinator, Stefanus Bessi, the nursing home employs 11 civil servants, two honorary workers and a volunteer. The workers look after the 49 elderly people who were placed in the nursing home by their families.
The healthier and younger elderlies, staying in homes one to six, were chatting away amongst each other that afternoon, while others were sweeping the street.
Meanwhile, homes seven to nine, where Suntreg and 13 other elderly live, is equipped with a medical clinic for weaker and sick elderly people.
Staff look after the elderly during their work hours, but when they leave for the day, there is no one left to help.
The oldest inhabitants are Ni Ketut Rempyug, 94, and Ni Ketut Rintin, 90. These two ladies do nothing but lie or sit on their beds. They both need help to sit up, do not respond to conversation, and like Suntreg, wear adult diapers.
“Just in case they urinate without realizing it,” said Tri.
The Yogyakarta-born volunteer said elderlies in Isolation Home needed extra attention because they could not do many things on their own. They needed to be bathed, fed and given their medicine, and relied on workers to take them to the toilet.
“Staff look after the elderly during their work hours, but when they leave for the day, there is no one left to help,” said Tri.
But Stefanus said there were four live-in employees in the nursing home who could help around the clock.
“They are here to help the elderly at any time,” he said.
“But because today is Galungan, they are taking the day off to celebrate the festival.”
To make matters worse, the elderly in this home get very little attention from their own families.
None of the families of the elderlies in the nursing home came by to visit their loved ones Wednesday. The elderly said they always spent Galungan without their families.
“They *the elderly* are abandoned by their families,” said Tri.
One elderly lady was even abandoned by her family until the day she passed away, Tri added.
“People said the lady was from a lower caste, therefore her family refused to visit her as they were afraid of bad karma,” she said.
“I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe Balinese people would do such a thing.”