Elderly at care homes suffer because of pandemic, but it’s people they miss most

Donations down amid worsening economic crisis, facilities closed

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(Photo: Ameer Khalifa/JNews)
AMMAN –– Hiyam, an inmate with Alzheimer’s at an elderly house, can still recognize a brother of hers who used to visit her at Princess Muna Al-Hussein Center for the Elderly. But since COVID-19 hit the country, she cannot see him any more under a no-visitation rule meant to protect vulnerable groups.اضافة اعلان

The 55-year-old Hiyam (not her real name) was walking along the corridor and seemed normal before she burst into crying, leaned her back on the wall and said: “Get me out of here. I want to see my brother.”

The psychological toll of the pandemic, according to workers at the home, is one of several challenges the senior citizens have to deal with, with these concerns being shared with other such facilities taking care of the elderly in the Kingdom.

President of the White Beds Society in Amman, Maisoun Armouti, explained that visits by relatives and friends were at first banned, then were allowed with restrictions. As a result, the residents “are getting increasingly irritable and are being harsher” in dealing with the home’s employees.

“We understand how hard it has been for them during this time,” she said. The residents wait not only for family members, but they were also used to seeing young men and women from schools and colleges spending time with them. This is no longer the case, until further notice.

For his part, President of Princess Muna Al-Hussein Center Father Farah Haddad shed light on other aspects of the situation. The slow economy, he said, led to dwindling donations to the organization. This, in turn, has affected the quality of the services offered to the guests.

Another blow to the care providers, in the case of the center, was that some employees were stuck in their homes during last year’s lockdown and continued to receive their wages, while those who were on duty were paid double to do the job for everybody, according to Father Haddad. He added that two centers overseen by the Ministry of Social Development had to be closed due to the economic crisis in Zarqa and Amman and their guests distributed among the remaining homes.

The ministry, according to the center’s president, refers cases to different homes and pays JD280 per month for each resident. The actual cost, meanwhile, is JD700, and in an ideal situation, the difference is offset by donations. These donations have run thin as donors have also been supporting other causes, such as those of refugees and the national anti-COVID-19 campaign.

Armouti echoed those concerns, but added that the guests of the White Beds Society also miss the social life and support from the local community. People from the community used to check on the guests and help them meet their needs, sometimes financially.

Nine elderly houses across the Kingdom, housing 367 residents, have all received their first dose of the vaccine, and 164 are awaiting their second jab. All the residents at the White Beds Society, except those whose health situation does not allow it, were vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of a national drive that gave priority to the elderly. By the time the efforts pay off, life as they have known it will hopefully be back and Hiyam might see her dear brother again.