Friday July 31, 2009
A safe haven for the elderly
By CHARLES FERNANDEZ
FOR some, The Little Sisters of the Poor St. Francis Xavier Home for the elderly in Cheras may seem extravagant.
But in planning the new home, the Catholic Church saw the need to provide facilities, equipment and fittings suitable for the comfort, convenience and safety of the elderly residents.
The home is an epitome of love where nuns go about feeding, washing, bathing, cleaning and tending to the sick to ensure that those who are with them can live out the last years of their lives with dignity and comfort.
These women have been taking care of men and women in their twilight years who have little or no income and no family to take care of them.
“These people have led a hard life, many are in their twilight years who come from poor families or have no family to care for them,’’ said Sister Cecilia, sister-in-charge of the home.
The home was motivated by Jeanne Jugan who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor one winter evening in 1839 in St. Sevan, France.
She opened her heart and her home to an elderly, blind, paralysed woman who found herself all alone after the death of her sister. Jugan carried Anne Chauvin through the streets of their small town to her apartment and placed her in her own bed.
Soon another old woman followed, then a third and this was how the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, with its unique mission of hospitality to the elderly was born.
The Little Sisters of the Poor arrived in Kuala Lumpur in 1965 during the feast of St. Francis Xavier.
At the Cheras Home, voluntary doctors and dentists offer their services and many people have also taken an active interest in the residents’ welfare by taking them out for picnics, games or simply coming for a chat.
“We want to bring back to them the dignity that they have lost or have been deprived of. That is why in their new home they each have their own room with attached bathroom for better privacy,’’ added Sr Cecilia.
There are now 67 residents at the home. The oldest is centenarian Wong Lai Yong.
Wong has been at the home for the last 30 years when the Little Sisters of the Poor had their humble beginnings at a 16-room bungalow which once belonged to a Chinese millionaire, in the then Klang Road.
Many are bedridden, the more able ones sit about in the courtyard chatting away while some help the volunteers and nuns with the daily chores of preparing food in the kitchen and laying the tables for meals.
“There is no time to day-dream as there are various activities lined up for the residents each day,’’ said Sr Cecilia.
From Monday to Thursday, residents take part in Bible sharing, on Tuesday there is a 45-minute bowling session conducted by Paul Duane, an American who has volunteered his services beyond bowling lessons, physioteraphy every day and a 90-minute taichi lesson every Saturday.
“There is no feeling of being unwanted and abandoned as there is self-giving love for everyone. There is a spawn of dedicated volunteers who care for the elderly with love and personal attention,’’ said Sr Cecilia.
Unlike the hundreds of old people who have been left abandoned by their children or next-of-kin in government hospitals and old folks homes throughout the country, the Little Sisters of the Poor has a mission — to provide constant maternal protection to those entrusted under their care.
The home is equipped with air-conditioning, lifts, full kitchen and laundry facilities, a physiotherapy department, doctor’s office and treatment room, pharmacy and dental clinic for the physical needs and comfort of the residents.
The home also has a proper chapel which conducts Sunday services, a separate multi-purpose hall, games room and a hair salon.
The St Francis Xavier’s Home for the elderly is at No. 3 Jalan 5/96, off Jalan Sekuci, Taman Sri Bahtera, 5th Mile Jalan Cheras, 56100 Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-9131 1464).