The Sunday Leader

Horror Home In Madiwela

By Ranee Mohamed _ Photos by Lalith Perera

Many of the inmates are confined to their beds. The ceiling is all they see

She could be your mother; she could be mine.

And we will imagine that everything is fine.

But the  Doreens, Lornas, Miriams, Hingerts and Graces  living in SSVP Friendship House situated on Thalawathugoda Road, Madiwela are looking for an escape route from this place they called a ‘hell’ —  and they seem to have no one to tell as they remain trapped in here.

Some of them have children somewhere, and others have no one but their own lonely souls for company.

The home situated on the main road is not a plush residency. Few of us expect that kind of luxury in our old age. But a kind word, a touch of warmth and understanding, blended heavily with patience can make that change so essential to wipe the tears of these ladies in their 70s and 80s, who are trapped by their own immobility and helplessness.

Many of the inmates have been reduced to skin and bone

The dreary surroundings are blackened with the unhappiness within, misery lies heavily in the air.  The comparatively youthful authority of the staff here has more than just terrorised these senior ladies who show signs of long years of songs, cakes and wines…of family photos, pedicures, manicures and varied hairstyles and hair-cuts.

But time seems to have overtaken them. The parties are over and the music has stopped. Loneliness has come into their lives at a time they desperately need a hand to hold and a voice for comfort.

But all they hear are the voices of the three females in authority and they shudder softly the moment their backs are turned.
“Save us,” they whisper softly, their grey eyes welling with tears. “Please help us,” they whisper as they struggle to get up and struggle to walk.

“When you go away, we will have hell to pay, they will massacre us,” another lady tells me, her grey hair as limp as her spirit. “Hush!, they say in unison,” but in a final desperate attempt whisper. “Please save us.”

Being bedridden is a state that we will never imagine for ourselves. And they didn’t either. But many of these senior ladies remain in their beds. Some are bedridden, some are not. “They hit me here” says one senior lady. “They hit me here with my own walking stick,” says another as she holds her stomach gingerly.

“They scraped my face,” whispers another. “If you give us a gift, they will take it away from us when you are gone. We are not even allowed to keep a cologne, and we like these things very much,” said another, her pleading eyes and  unhappy face saying even more.

Another fragile old lady sits on a chair. She is counting on her fingers — perhaps counting the days to get away. “She is not of sound mind,” whispers a lady in authority.

I walk further into the home. There is a small room. It looks like a hen-pen. There is a padlock on the door. “What’s in here?” I ask the ladies in authority. And they open the door. Surprise, Surprise, inside is another 80 year old. Her eyes are small blobs of grey. She cannot see. If she could, she will notice why it is so  suffocating and hot inside. There is no window, no ventilation holes. Once the door is locked, the inside is as secure as a spacecraft.  And in here sleeps old Doreen. It is no wonder that she keeps asking for ice-cream.

She cannot walk for there is hardly any room. She can sit on the bed, that is the only great freedom of movement that she is allowed.

“She cannot see, so we keep her locked in here,” offers the ladies in authority, as they drive home the padlock.

Poor Doreen, as if being imprisoned by her lack of vision is not enough, seems imprisoned by her helplessness too.

Miriam lies in bed. She is unable to move.  Miriam has never been married. “I have a sister,” she says. Miriam is but all skin and bones, her eyes are expressionless.

She is wearing an old blouse which is held together in front with a single safety pin. Her grey hair and heavily sunken eyes, emaciated body and her inability to move gives one a profound fear of old age.

But Miriam thinks young.  “I am not yet 30,” insists Miriam, just like many of us. But with an old bedpan and the wounds in her stick-like legs as her only view of life outside, Miriam’s life is not just bleak, it is miserable and seems worse than black death itself, that seem to lurk in different corners of this home.

“They once broke my finger,” says another lady in desperation. “They hit us, please save us,” she pleads.

“They give me endless trouble. I am from a good family.  My mummy and daddy are both dead, I have no one, that is my problem,” says this 80 year old in tears as she claims a distant relationship to a one-time politician.

She seems to be in a desperate hurry to get it all off her chest before someone stops her.

“Do something to make us free, darling. Please, she is harassing us,” she cries, limping around. She is happy that unlike the others, she can at least limp around.
The inmates are talking about the matron. But she was not in.

“She is lying,”  the two other women in authority insist with a smile.
So many senior ladies, some of them mothers – can they all be imagining these things – the ones confined to bed, those struggling around this dull old house, can they all be imagining these assaults and beatings?

A donor to this home speaking on condition of anonymity says, “If you give anything to the ladies she (the matron) will take it from them as soon as you leave. That’s what makes me really angry. Not even a Cologne is allowed to be kept. They  will hit them when they keep anything  and  even the Nestomalt is taken away. She has broken one of the ladies fingers  and they are dragged from their beds…..” he said.

It is learnt that several petitions have been sent to various authorities about the conditions in this home. Stinking toilets, switching off of fans during day and night causing these senior citizens to suffer with mosquitoes and flies, gifts being sent off to different locations, tables laid on Saturdays and  Sundays with the ‘ladies first’ courtesy violated.

A petition states that  on Saturdays and Sundays the table is laid for “men” to eat first and the poor ladies are given the remnants.

This makes us wonder where the men come in, because when Photographer Lalith Perera and I visited the home we did not see any male inmates in here.

The petitions go on to state……..the poor old ladies are been harassed and abused without mercy. “They are also called ‘Greedy’……” They are not even allowed to talk to each other and  water is limited for drinking as they have to be helped to go to the toilet. No TV, no fans are allowed to be used. Neither are they taken out of the bed so they stare at the ceiling the whole day. They are slapped and  called ‘prostitutes’ in Sinhalese. One lady’s finger is broken. Daily these people are losing weight and dying without proper food. There is also a drug addict who is living there and harassing the ladies….”

And to the people in authority, we were not journalists — when we walked into Friendship House and spent some time there, we saw the inmates, we saw the lives that they lead and we sensed their fears…..

We have heard of probation and child care service for children, and old age they say is but our second childhood.

So what about the tears of the old ladies confined to Friendship House. They seem to need friendship more than anything else in the world….

They Get The Best Treatment — Matron

When The Sunday Leader contacted the Matron of Friendship House and asked her about the ill-treatment, she said that we were making a mistake. “They are treated very well. There is a father and a sister who come in the evening and we all pray together,” she said in a soft voice.

“There is one lady here who is ‘mental’ I think she has been telling these lies around. “I have been the matron for 19 year. I have an open mind.  I have cared for these people. I have buried these old people. I have a book of donors and I maintain books, you can come here and see these people,” she offered.

How could we tell her, that we have already been there and done that.


14 Comments for “Horror Home In Madiwela”

  1. anthony jones

    Whilst, being in Sri Lanka nearly two years ago, I fell ill and was admitted to the Royal Nusing Home situated in Pandura, an aged care facility.

    I was well cared for and looked after, the management and staff were a treat, the facilties and the food provided were excellent, the only draw-back being that the patients had to physically, go to the local doctor for even a blood sugar examination, I wish that by now there will be a mobile service performing these services, whereby the patients do not have to herded into vans for this purpose.

    I am in a nursing home in Australia at the moment, the minor aspects like blood tests are done in the homes itself by visiting pathology collectors, the residents have only got to move for clinic and hospital visits.

    I am happy to note that the Royal Nursing Home has within a short time of time expanded to nearly four homes in the Colombo district. A j.

  2. rOHANA

    It is very sad that in Sri Lanka we dont have a good elderly care system. I think this is not the only bad elderly home in the country.
    looking at the pictures I can see they look clean and you have to taken to account that when eleder complain to what extent to those are true due to their mental status(most of them are demented).
    you need to appreciate the caretakers difficult job with limited resourses.

  3. harry

    This is abuse of elderly.There should be regular inspections of the facilities and standard of care should be monitored by an impartial and respectable authority i.e.not prone to accept bribes.This authority should have wide powers to even cancel the registration of such homes and should come under Minister of Health.This will be a beginning to wipe out elder abuse which is a criminal act in the decent world.

  4. dipsomaniax

    Minister Os=f social services???? Get cracking

  5. Estelle

    Ms. Mohamed has written again to touch our hearts. I am still getting over her last story about Faika. I feel so sorry for these old people, because i am reaching old age myself.

  6. Sharlene

    Please help these poor souls. It is easy to walk on by but it takes guts and effort to be a good Samaritan.

  7. Charles Schokman

    If in reality what has been reported in all its aspects is a clear indication of what is happening in this Home, this should be a matter of grave concern to be addressed without further delay.
    I hope in Sri Lanka such ‘Homes’ come under some authority where periodical checks are made to ascertain whether they meet all the conditions required in
    effectively running these Homes.
    I note that this particular Home comes under the guidance of the ‘society of St. Vincent De Paul’. Surely, they should look into these grievances in preserving their good name.
    It is sad that these seniors in the twilight years of their lives should be the forgotten lot.
    Have we short memories to ignore the sacrifices they have made as mothers
    and perhaps their contributions towards a better society?
    I do not intend to draw a distinction between communities in Sri Lanka
    but from the names referred to they all seem to be Burghers and this saddens me even more as they form the minority.
    In Australia the Senior citizens are materially well looked after, though inwardly they suffer from the disease called ‘loneliness’ and this too is a matter of concern that needs to be addressed.
    I accept that it is no easy task to look after these frail old ladies and there is much to be recognised and admired for the patience and the out pouring of love shown by many a carer.
    We can only hope that those who have misused their trust in this their vocation will be brought to task.
    Charles Schokman
    Victoria, Australia

  8. Rediff

    So much for Christian compassion at this home!! I guess the Christian priest running it is too busy trying to convert all the ‘heathens’ to pay attention to these poor elderly folk who need love and care.

  9. Sharon Meynet

    this is shocking!! come on people lets do our best to try and help them. I know i will do my best but me alone will not make a big difference so please join me in doing your bit for these poor ladies. after all this could be us one day right?

  10. san

    Its again sad to hear how the old citizens of the country is treated. The Social Service minister or staff do not care these centers. They dont visit to see the facilities. They enjoy the tax payers money. Who ever run this center to be questioned and punsihed for their ignorence. If you can not manage properly pls let this elders out. Let some one else look after them. Dont hurt them. Who ever hurt them to put in prison.

  11. The community must rise up and fight against such abuse and oppression of people who are sio fragile and helpless. Its is a crying shame to see this happening in our beautiful moterland by people against their own people. When will we ever learn?

  12. People like Charles and Claudette Schokman are the ideal people who can rectify matters. They are involved in many humanitarian causes, but I wonder if I am asking too much of them. I also note that the Brotherhood of st Lawrence is involved in this aged care home. I am surprised that they have allowed such unchristian methods of care and importantly lack of compassion.
    Gordon Cooray

  13. Mumtaz

    Could you please advice the contact number of this place as i like to visit the place.also the directions to get there please.

  14. This made me smile and hopefully after your last post it will do the same for you:

    Clones are people two. :)

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