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Tragic cases highlight plight of our elderly


No family to bury old age home resident

A 61-year-old man's body was found in his Herlear house (picture) over the weekend. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE SAD reality of the plight of our elderly has been highlighted by the recent discovery of the body of a 61-year-old man in his house and the fact that an old age home had to bury a 69-year-old resident because his body was never claimed.

The 61-year-old Herlear resident, whose body was found in an advanced state of decomposition, has not been identified yet. To add to the tragedy, the man’s dog had to be euthanised as it had eaten flesh from the body.

According to the man’s neighbours, body parts had been scattered inside as well as outside the house.

They also indicated that they had last seen the man at his house about three weeks ago.

“He was very much alone and since his wife died about four or five years ago he lost the desire to maintain his garden and yard. He hardly received any visitors at the house while his son stays in Cape Town,” the neighbours said.

They added that the deceased’s car had not moved from its parking bay for a long time.

“We wanted to go and check on him but decided against it because we did not notice anything peculiar. Some neighbours, however, eventually entered the house and discovered his remains.”

According to the neighbours the deceased’s dog was not aggressive. “The back door of the house was left open and the house was in disarray.”

The police said yesterday that an autopsy would be conducted while DNA samples would be sent to the laboratory in Pretoria to determine his identity.

During the second incident, Petrus Hermanus Bernardo, 69, was buried over the weekend by the old age home where he was living after his body was unclaimed.

According to his caregiver, she was the only person who visited him at the home.

“For the past four years, I assisted Bernardo over weekends and helped him to clean his room. He was like a grandfather to me and he had no family here.

“The residents, even those in wheelchairs, have to take care of themselves, make their own meals, clean themselves and take their medication over weekends when the old age home workers and nurses are not on duty.”

She added that the pensioners often went without food at the home.

“Out of a meagre pension of about R680 per month they still need to pay rent and buy groceries. Only some family members come and visit their grandparents . . . they feel neglected and forgotten.”

She stated that Bernardo was transferred to another facility, eight days before his death.

“He died last week, dressed in the same clothes that he arrived in. The place smelled strongly of urine and I do not know if they bathed him . . . he was dirty and soiled.”

According to his caregiver, Bernardo complained that no one cared for him at the home for the aged.

“He was very unhappy and said that the people working there spoke ill of him. He wanted to come and live with me. I was happy to accommodate him, but my shanty is not suitable for an elderly, sick person in the cold of the winter.

“Bernardo was suffering from heart problems, had water on his lungs and became extremely weak. He died in a tiny room that was not spacious enough to accommodate two people.”

She pointed out that she was relieved that Bernardo had been buried in a dignified manner.

“Thankfully he was not given a pauper’s burial as none of his family members had come forward to claim his body. He had a funeral policy so the old age home was able to buy a coffin for him and hold a small funeral. I am happy that he is at peace and will not have to suffer anymore.”