Managers of elderly homes plead for families to check on residents

EVACUATE — Residents at the Grand Bahama Home for the Elderly are preparing to evacuate the building due to unstable conditions. (PHOTO: JUELANDA THOMPSON)

As Hurricane Dorian, with potential category 4 wind force, continued its course towards The Bahamas, heading directly for the Northern Region, management representatives of active  homes for senior citizens sent out pleas for respective family members “check” on relatives.

Several heads of homes for senior citizens disclosed that materials and other essentials needed for their residents had been secured, but there was disappointment that family members were disconnected.

Irene Burrows of Burrows Home expressed sadness at the current state her home is in and that citizens have shown no interest in offering their services.

Burrows shared she is currently in need of water and canned goods, but is hoping for a turnaround. As a result of the shortage, a shelter for some of the residents would be an option. However, Burrows informed that the shelters would only take residents of the home if they are accompanied by a representative and she is unable to provide such, because of a very small staff.

“Staying in a shelter is not therefore, an option. I would love to do it, but I spoke with a social service representative this morning and he said the only way the shelter can take some of my residents is if someone stays with them and my staff members have their own families so they can’t go.

“I have not received any calls from any of the family members, and sadly some of them are not even on the island.

“I need gas. I need water. I just got some plywood delivered this morning and my son will come and nail them up this afternoon. But, I need gas and I need water. I haven’t really reached out to anyone. I thought people would just come and render their assistance. During the last hurricane people brought me water and goods, but this year not a soul came.

“I can’t figure it out.

Burrows who was in a state of distress said, she really needs assistance.

“I feel terrified and horrible because I think these senior citizens deserve better than this. I don’t get help from government. I don’t get a grant, so I am doing this on my own. Social Service recently sent a lady to stay here. She broke her hip and she had nowhere to go and I took her in without a dollar. So I am running on nothing.  I need gas, water and canned goods and if anyone can help with that, that would be good,” lamented Burrows.

Founder of Raybertha’s Senior Citizen Center, Albertha Hudson has opted to staying in a shelter due to similar concerns.

“When it is storm time, we are mandated by law under the Public Hospital Authorities to send residents to the shelter at Chris the King Church, but you have to send an employee or a family member with them. I do not have staff to send with those clients, so I would turn to the family for help.

“I would explain to the family to take their relativess home with them till after the storm and if they desire not to want that, then they themselves could take the senior citizen to the shelter, but they have to be accompanied by someone.

“Some family members take them home and some take them to the shelter, because they have medical issues and it’s best to be in the shelter where there are doctors and nurses. But whoever the family doesn’t come for, we still can’t put them outside.

“I don’t assign special staff to stay for the hurricane because everybody wants to be home, but the shift goes on. Whoever is stuck in the weather, they have stay until the weather is better and others can get in. Over the years I have not had a problem with that.

“However, there are family members that don’t come for them and don’t come and take them to the shelter, so we have to do the best that we can.

“Nonetheless, we are straight with supplies and water. Our kind-hearted staff is available, so whoever is scheduled to stay with them will have to stay with them and that is how we manage.”

Agatha Thompson  of Grand Bahama Home for the Aged, explained that she will be staying at the shelter for the first time this year, because her building is in unstable condition.

Thompson exclaimed some relatives have reached out to her for assistance, but others will have to stay in the shelter.

“I have been the founder for the past 30 years and since the home opened in 1990, we have weathered every storm in the building. We were able to secure all of the elderly persons, taking those from the outlying settlements, but since Hurricane Matthew, we have not been sure that the building could withstand another category 4 storm.

“We are asking relatives and we will be using the shelters for the first time to secure the seniors just to be on the safe side. A few family members have been in contact, but most of them have relatives who are not on the island or persons who are able to assist them. Some are going home and some are going in the shelters.”

Thompson told The Freeport News that the building was damaged and she has been seeking help for many months.

“Our roof was severely compromised. We had insurance and we settled so quickly with the insurance company, it only covered a portion and a lot of the damages showed up after. The insurance company also took long to pay and we didn’t have the finances. We then made an appeal to the community from earlier in the year to assist us with completing the roof and the damages to the ceiling.

“The Grand Bahama for the Age is a non-profit organization and we never have sufficient funds for maintenance along with the daily operations, so a lot of areas still haven’t been done. We have done most of it, but we are still not satisfied that it is secure enough to weather another storm.

“We know that we are in the hurricane zone. We know that from June to November we are in the hurricane season. So, we have been trying, but for us personally running a non-profit organization has been very hard.

“We started asking for assistance early in The Freeport News and ZNS and a lot of persons promised, but that’s just what it was –only promises. A lot of the work still needs to be done. I am not going to take chances with their lives, so we are going to use the shelters.

“In our experience over the years, we stayed here, we were safe and we realized a lot of the shelters were compromised, but we have never had to move from this building and we thank God for it. There was a time when two of the buildings on the property was damaged, but this building of the home remained intact, but we are not taking chances this year” expressed Thompson.

Retrieving sufficient items, Home Away from Home Founder, Mervee Knowles explained to this news daily, she was blessed through corporate citizens who supplied her with water and materials, but is still seeking assistance from relatives to provide their services.

 “Right now we are preparing and making sure that the windows are being secured. We just got some plywood in, but we will need some volunteer persons to come in and help us put the stuff up because we only have one gentleman doing it right now.

“We have our water supplies that was donated by the Rotary Club which is a blessing. The Grand Bahama Port Authority brought us 11 sheets of plywood which is also a blessing and we are just trusting in God. We got some groceries with the food stamps, and right now all of the patients are safe. We have all of their medication. Everybody is safe and we are going to just wait and see what happens. We just pray to God that everything goes well.

“Unfortunately I have only heard from one family member who was actually really helping me. Otherwise no other family member came by. I was speaking with one on the phone and ““To be honest I prefer them to stay with me because if they haven’t called to make sure their family members are safe, how can I be sure they will be safe when they go to a home. When they come to the home, they are a part of me, but the assistance would’ve been kind” she said.

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