Jakarta's nursing homes continue to care for needy elderly despite impending overload

Madam Sri Alimah lost contact with her children after an earthquake struck her home town in Yogyakarta in 2006.
Madam Sri Alimah lost contact with her children after an earthquake struck her home town in Yogyakarta in 2006.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Having lost contact with their loved ones after natural disasters or for other reasons, senior citizens must try to feel at home sharing a room with over a dozen other people in nursing homes.

They all seem to have the same dream: that one day they will reunite with their families.

Sitting on her bed by the window, Madam Sri Alimah, 69, was watching her fellow residents exiting one by one to a gamelan music ensemble room as she clasped the plastic edge of her metallic crutches.

"Gamelan! Gamelan! Let's go to the gamelan room!" shouted a woman as a speaker echoed a similar announcement in one of the rooms filled with 14 seniors at government-owned nursing home Tresna Werdha Budi Mulia 3 in South Jakarta last week.

Madam Alimah, who has lived in the nursing home for the past 11 years, lost contact with her children after an earthquake struck her home town in Yogyakarta in 2006.

"I lived at the neighbourhood unit head's house for a while... Then I was moved to one of Yogyakarta's nursing homes but the squatting toilet was inadequate for my mobility problem. I was eventually moved to Jakarta in 2008," she said, adding that it was possible her children knew of her whereabouts but were not "wealthy enough" to care for her.

For those in a similar situation to Madam Alimah, government-owned nursing homes provide the necessary facilities, intensive care and social environment to make them feel at home.

Caregivers also organise daily activities for them, including a gamelan class, physical exercise, religious sermons and skills classes such as sewing lessons.

Tresna Werdha Budi Mulia 3 nursing home head Heri Suhartono emphasised that the place was "not meant for them to spend their whole life".

"Our ultimate goal is that they find their families one day. Because the greatest happiness only comes from one's family," Mr Heri said.

He cited financial factors as one of the main reasons that seniors are abandoned. Once the Jakarta Social Agency has become aware of such individuals, they first identify them, and then shelter them in one of the nursing homes if they are unable to locate the family.

Mr Heri's nursing home has seen an increase in tenants recently, with the number rising from 295 residents in November 2018 to 330 at present.

"We have increased our maximum capacity from 300 to 350 by maximising the use of some unused rooms," he added. The facilities at his nursing home include a shared toilet inside each room, a laundry room and a clinic that gives daily check-ups for the residents.

Mr Heri said nursing homes that had exceeded their maximum capacity would move their inhabitants to the four government-owned nursing homes in Jakarta.

According to Jakarta Social Agency secretary Mariana, other nursing homes were also "optimising available rooms" as well as being helped by government-funded programmes to cope with the imminent overload.

"For now, (the number of seniors) is manageable... but with the rising number of seniors as a result of better healthcare, we are also aiming to restore the function of a family through government welfare such as the Jakarta Senior Card," Ms Mariana said.

In the long term, she said, the development of a new nursing home in Ciangir, Tangerang, Banten, was currently being "explored" to mitigate the problem.

In the meantime, Tresna Werdha Budi Mulia 3 nursing home inhabitant Suryani Heri is looking forward to joining her grandchildren in Klaten, Central Java, by this year's Ramadhan after finishing her medical treatment.

"Of course, I want to go back to my own house. I don't want to spend the end of my life here," Madam Suryani said.