For many, the thought of ending up in an old folks home is linked to the sense of being abandoned or dumped once loved ones who used to care for you decide that it’s no longer worth the trouble.
But Erra Norfazira Tarmizi, who works at a nursing home in Kuala Lumpur, says more often than not, this is untrue.
Erra, 22, has worked at the Husna Arrashid Care Centre for almost a year. She has witnessed many visits by the residents’ children, who also bring along food and items like disposable diapers for their parents.
“They never come across as having been dumped by their families like you hear about in TV dramas,” she said.
On the contrary, she said, their families send them to the home out of concern for their welfare as they realise their parents’ need for special care by experienced professionals.
“Most of the residents were sent here because they need to be closely monitored.”
There are 16 senior citizens at the home, aged 50 to 75. Erra’s duties include bathing them, changing their diapers and cleaning up after them.
But she has never viewed her job as a burden, neither has she ever recoiled from her tasks.
She and six others take turns looking after their charges in shifts which are divided into three per day.
It costs about RM2,000 a month at the Husna Arrashid centre although the amount varies depending on the level of care needed.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, family visits have been restricted. Children who would otherwise visit their parents at the home on a regular basis can only leave the items they bring for them outside the gate.
These are collected by staff members who observe strict physical distancing and wear gloves as an extra precaution.
For now, there are no more face-to-face chit-chats and catch-ups, as all priority goes to ensuring that none of the residents contract the deadly virus.
“Last year, all of them took a Covid-19 swab test and thankfully none of them were infected,” Erra told MalaysiaNow.
“So to keep them safe, they can only see their family members on video calls or talk to them on the phone.”
But it’s tough even at the best of times to go weeks or months without seeing loved ones, what more during a pandemic.
“Nearly every day, we update their families and send them videos to help them feel better as they have not been able to meet for a long time,” Erra said.
“They are part of the high-risk group and if they are not carefully monitored, anything could happen.”
Inspiration behind the centre
Harunnarashid Mohd Nor, who founded the nursing home, did so in order to ease the pain of losing her own parents.
“I wanted to find foster parents to take care of, that’s why I opened this centre,” she told MalaysiaNow.
With Ramadan and Hari Raya fast approaching, she and her staff have planned a variety of activities for the residents such as making and decorating Hari Raya cards and taking videos of them breaking fast.
They will do their best, but they know that this year will be different again as Covid-19 prevention measures remain the top priority.
“Special care will be given to those with dementia or Alzheimer’s because sometimes they forget that they are fasting,” said Erra, who wants to open a nursing home of her own one day.
She cannot help but remember simpler times, before Covid-19 arrived.
“Before 2020, family members would come and observe Ramadan together with them, and celebrate Hari Raya together.”