81-year-old woman needs urgent help

81-year-old woman needs urgent help

Staff reporter

Thursday, September 10, 2020

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Ellen Gray struggles daily to care for her 81-year-old mother Beryl who has a long list of hurdles keeping her from her pension.

“Miss Beryl”, as she's affectionately known, doesn't need the money to buy anything special — she just needs the basics like adult diapers and help building a bathroom and kitchen. And, like other residents in their community, the mother and daughter would also love to have piped water in their home.

They live in a two-bedroom house, made largely of board and zinc, in the hills of Peter King, a small, rural community in Summerfield, Clarendon.

Gray has already made some progress with her goal of building a bathroom, their most pressing need. She has some of the construction material and is confident community members will provide the labour if she can get the rest.

“I need some pampers for her and some help with the bathroom so that I can bathe her properly. If I can get the help, nuff young man in the community will come out and help mi build the bathroom,” Gray told the Jamaica Observer. For the kitchen, she needs both construction material and labour.

The women are struggling to make ends meet.

The 54-year-old Gray explained that previous attempts to get her mother's pension proved unsuccessful as checks with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) office in May Pen revealed that contributions had not been paid over by the company where her mother had worked for 18 years.

“She and my father used to work at a tobacco farm from long time. When I went to May Pen with their NIS card, they said them never see any money paid over for them,” Gray said. After the company closed, Miss Beryl did “domestic work, looking after old people and washing clothes for people, so she didn't have any way to get a pension after that”, Gray added.

Miss Beryl's husband received a pension from Monymusk, where he worked after leaving the tobacco farm, but her lack of a birth certificate complicated matters when she tried to gain access to those funds.

“She married to my father but on her marriage paper she put her father's last name, and she was registered as Beryl Williams at the tobacco place,” Gray explained.

In 2017, Gray moved back home to care for her parents after being let go from her job as a live-in, domestic helper in the neighbouring community of Kellits. Soon after, her father died.

Her mother took it badly. Since then she has been bedridden and has suffered from poor circulation. She is in need of a constant supply of adult diapers.

“I have to buy pampers for her because just few months after my father died, her health just go down. She can't walk and I have to do everything for her. I have to lift her off the bed if she needs to sit down or to wipe her down because we don't have a bathroom. I'm trying to make a little bathroom so I can bathe her in, and a little kitchen,” Gray said, adding that she has already purchased [some] building material with money donated by her son.

“Only him, and my daughter in Kingston, I will get a little help from. My neighbour sometimes will send money to help buy pampers for her. That is the only way I get any help. She doesn't have anybody else. She has another daughter and four sons but none of them helping,” Gray added. “She took care of my three children while I was working; that is why I have to look after her.”

In addition to her role as caregiver for her mother, Gray is also the sole guardian of her grandson and grand-nephew, who are 10 and seven years old respectively.

“The biggest one is my grandson and one of my niece leave the other little boy on me long time now and living somewhere in Portmore, so I have to take care of them,” she said. Gray explained that both boys' parents do provide some financial support. But she is struggling as she too is without a pension and battling her own health problems.

“Right now I am sick because I have diabetes and high blood pressure,” she said. “I don't know how I manage. Sometimes I go down the road to a little old man to clean two times a month for him, and his daughter send money from America, $6,000 every month, and I take that buy food. And when I get the PATH [Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education] money mi buy up pampers and wipes for her, and some food stuff.”

Gray's mother is among an estimated 64,000 elderly people registered on PATH, as of 2014.

Based on the growing number of the elderly in Jamaica, the government's national policy framework for senior citizens was established to enhance their quality of life in accordance with regional and international instruments.

People who would like to help Ms Beryl may call 876-275-6602 or 876-504-0474.

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