Woman left in JB home for 16 years, still waiting for Singapore family

A nursing home in Johor Baru wants to find the relatives of one of its residents, Pungut Jumadi, 69, who has had no visitors for the past 16 years.

Green Acres in Johor Baru trying to locate relatives of woman to fulfil her wishes

Madam Pungut Jumadi behaves no different from other residents at the Green Acres Elderly Care Centre in Johor Baru - except during festive occasions like Hari Raya.

When she sees others getting visits from their family members, the 69-year-old's face becomes downcast, and she grows even quieter.

The reason: No one has visited Madam Pungut since she was admitted to the home by her son in 2001 at the age of 53, said the staff at Green Acres, which is about 20 minutes' drive from the Causeway.

They said Madam Pungut, a Malaysian living with family in Singapore, was treated in Tan Tock Seng Hospital for a stroke and then taken to the home after she was discharged.

The owner of the home, Mr Yeo Kok Leong, contacted The Straits Times recently to help Madam Pungut locate her family members as he has been unable to contact her son, whose name was registered as Syahrunizal Mohamad Ali.

Mr Yeo said he is reaching out in the hope of finding her family here, as Madam Pungut's health is declining. Her family is believed to comprise Singaporeans residing in Singapore.

"She often says she wants to balik (go home). We want to help her fulfil her heart's desire," he added.

Her fees have not been paid for several years, although Mr Yeo declined to reveal the exact amount owed. Fees at Green Acres start from RM1,700 (S$547) a month, depending on the type of care needed.

Senior nurse Liew Seenah, 30, consoling 69-year-old Madam Pungut Jumadi at Green Acres Nursing Home (below) in Johor Baru, about 20 minutes' drive from the Causeway. The owner of the home, Mr Yeo Kok Leong, is hoping to find Madam Pungut's family in
Senior nurse Liew Seenah, 30, consoling 69-year-old Madam Pungut Jumadi at Green Acres Nursing Home. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

"It's not about the money. We are hoping that her son will come here to see his mother," he added.

Mr Yeo said he has also tried to find Madam Pungut's other relatives in her hometown of Segamat in Malaysia, but to no avail.

The Straits Times visited Madam Pungut's former home in Ang Mo Kio, based on the address given by Mr Yeo, but no one answered the door on two separate days last week. Neighbours said that at least three different families have lived in the unit over the past decade.

Cases like Madam Pungut's can also be found at other senior care homes located across the Causeway, though operators say they are not prevalent.

There are a wide variety of senior care homes in Johor Baru, ranging from those which provide nursing services to the very sick to those which cater for the more independent elderly. The Straits Times visited five such homes recently.

At the Spring Valley Homecare located about 15 minutes from Green Acres, the 80 or so Singaporeans form a sizeable proportion of its 190 residents.

Senior nurse Liew Seenah, 30, consoling 69-year-old Madam Pungut Jumadi at Green Acres Nursing Home (below) in Johor Baru, about 20 minutes' drive from the Causeway. The owner of the home, Mr Yeo Kok Leong, is hoping to find Madam Pungut's family in
Green Acres Nursing Home in Johor Baru is about 20 minutes' drive from the Causeway. The owner of the home, Mr Yeo Kok Leong, is hoping to find Madam Pungut's family in Singapore as her health is declining. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Mr John Ralph Isleta, an administration executive there, said that cases involving Singaporeans who do not visit their relatives are rare, but are not unheard of. The home is currently caring for one Singaporean with dementia admitted in 2013. In the four years since, his family has visited only once.

In another incident, a man's family stopped paying fees after one month. Monthly charges at Spring Valley range from $630 to $740, depending on the type of ward a person chooses. "They didn't pay, and for three months after that, we never heard anything from the son," Mr Isleta said. "We tried to contact them, but they didn't answer."

Staff took the man to Singapore to try and locate his son, and eventually to the police, who said they would handle the matter.

But for the most part, nursing home operators say that family members - both Singaporean and Malaysian - do their best to visit their relatives as often as they can.

"Some Singaporeans come once a week or only once a month, because of the distance," said Mr Jeremy Yeo, who runs City Heart Care, which has 180 residents, 30 of whom are from Singapore.

 

"But all our residents have family who visit them."

At Green Acres, which has about 25 residents - including two from Singapore - the staff try to do what they can for Madam Pungut, who cannot walk, has difficulty speaking, and is being fed through a tube.

"We buy her new clothes during Hari Raya," said Ms Liew Seenah, a senior nurse at the home. "All the other patients have people to visit them, except her."

When The Straits Times visited Madam Pungut, her face lit up when she saw that she had visitors. But when asked about her family, her smile faded away.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Left in home for 16 years, still waiting for family'. Print Edition | Subscribe