Care and Concern: Caritas lights empty lives of elderly

Care and Concern: Caritas lights empty lives of elderly

Ghazaryan sewing a blanket for Ofelia

Vera Grigoryan is one of the beneficiaries of “Vanadzor” project
Vera Grigoryan eagerly waits for Naira every Tuesday. She takes small steps to walk to the building entrance, leans on her cane and stares at the steps below.

Tuesday is the only day of the week that fills the emptiness of the 81 year old for a couple of hours. On that day, social worker Naira Mkhitaryan comes, and cleans Vera’s small apartment and cooks for her.

Vera is one of the 45 beneficiaries of the “Armenian Caritas” charity organization that helps elderly and lonely people in Vanadzor.

Care for the elderly people is not realized in Armenia at the state level. The current project for the elderly is, in fact, being implemented by an international organization. It covers three provinces of Armenia – Lori, Shirak and Gegharkunik. As for the other provinces of the country, then their elderly residents having no children or being abandoned remain without care.

“Home care for the elderly people of Vanadzor” project has been functioning in Vanadzor for two years now. It aims at taking care of the older people who either have no children and or have been abandoned by their families. One hundred elderly in Vanadzor are involved in the project, but only 45 get social workers’ assistance at home.

“These are the people who are helpless, it’s hard for them to move around, they cannot do housework, they are unable to do the shopping or pay utilities,” Hasmik Hovsepyan, Vanadzor coordinator of the project explains.

The organization helps (thе other) 55 people who can take care of themselves, but are sick and lonely, as well as the old people who get healthcare services at home; it provides drugs, clothing and dry food packages, social, psychological, legal advice and assistance and in signing up for social benefits.

Each of the three social workers in the program visits 15 elderly; one per week. Two nurses in the program visit 6-8 clients per day for checkups.

“A nurse came yesterday and she gave me this medicine,” Vera says as she tells about her maladies, “I have high blood pressure, my joints ache – I cannot walk properly, and I cannot sleep well at night.”

Vera had been married twice, but she was unhappy both times – both her husbands died. Her only child also died at the age of 7.

“I have been so foolish not to have a second child,” the old woman says.

She has no relatives in Vanadzor – they are spread all over. Her only “relative” is the social worker Nara Mkhitaryan.

“Nara makes my work easier, my house stays clean for a few days, and she cooks for me. And I bother my neighbors for 2-3 days, not the whole week,” Vera says.

After the social worker leaves, the old woman looks forward to next Tuesday – sometimes she has guests, and sometimes she visits her next-door neighbors.

“It’s hard to while away the day,” Vera says. Her TV is broken, so sometimes she goes to a neighbor’s house to watch programs.

“Loneliness is not a good thing,” Vera says.

Ophelia Grigoryan, who shares a similar fate, cries every day.

The 81-year old woman cannot remember any longer for how long she has been alone. Her husband and her two children died long ago. “I woke up in the morning and saw that my child’s eyes were open and not moving – he was dead.” And after the death of her 2.5-year old son, her 8-month old daughter died as well.

“If only I had a child, if only I weren’t lonely,” she says through her tears, “This woman is here to take care of us,” she says about Lena Ghazaryan, the social worker who takes care of her.

Ghazaryan was sewing a blanket for her at the time.

“Go and stir the dinner, my dear Lena, it may spill over.” Although she cannot cook or tidy the house herself, she still can give advice.

About 19 percent of the 283.000 residents of Lori province – 52,997 people – are pensioners.

There are no day-care centers for elderly in the province. There is a private elderly house in Vanadzor, and a private charity canteen.

“Armenian Caritas” envisages taking care of 100 elderly people in Vanadzor until 2011. At the same time, the organization is getting ready to submit proposals for the 4–year development program of Lori province for 2009-2011, involving RA government in the process of taking care of the elderly.

Head of the Welfare Department of Lori Rural Administration Body Valery Jaghinyan also intends to make proposals for the 4–year development program of Lori province for 2009-2011, the proposals are aimed at taking care of elderly people not at elderly houses or boarding houses, but at home.

“Taking care of them in their own environment is not only inexpensive, but also convenient for the elderly people themselves,” Jaghinyan says.