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Many lonely seniors who receive assistance cannot open their doors because they are bedridden. Often, nurses and social workers are the only people they see on any given day. The pensioners rely upon them to bathe, attend to their hygienic needs and check blood pressure and sugar levels. Housekeeping is paramount along with food preparation and laundry.

More importantly, physical activity is encouraged and conversation keeps them in good spirits.

“We are the window to the world for these people,” says the Rev. Roman Syrotych, Caritas Kiev director. “We provide them with information and do their shopping for them.”

Unfortunately, he adds, “We must reject people because there are 60 people in our care for five homecare givers.”

As Ukraine continues to reform its health care and social service system, Caritas is helping to push for newer models of elderly care.

Ms. Kurnytska urges local governments to consider employing social services from groups such as Caritas, a successful model that Austria and Germany is applying. She has already persuaded the Ternopil city government in western Ukraine to allocate money to Caritas to better assist lonely seniors in that municipality.

In addition to its medical, housekeeping and spiritual services, Caritas offers warmth through company and conversation.

Nurse Maria Batychko “is an angel from the sky,” says 85-year-old Kateryna Babich, who suffers from Parkinson’s, during a recent visit. Ms. Batychko helps bathe the elderly woman, reminds her to take her medicines, cooks and does the laundry for her, and takes her for walks outside when the weather permits.

“My neighbors say that their own daughters don’t take care of them like Maria does me,” says Ms. Babich, who was orphaned at 13. “They’re quite jealous.”

Indeed, project manager Ms. Kurnytska believes that simple visits just to talk can impede the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. For this reason, Fathers Ivanyuk and Nahirnyak want to promote senior clubs to gather the elderly so they may enjoy each other’s company, to screen movies together and do simple physical activities.

Wheelchair-user Olha Kuryna, 61, keeps occupied by putting together candy boxes for a nearby chocolate factory on her bed. She receives $0.04 per box and can assemble 500 boxes in three days. She relies on Nadia Dryaglina to help her change her clothes and bathe at the rehabilitation center where she lives in Kramatorsk.

Displaced from her home in the now occupied coal and steel center of Makiyivka, the former retired director of a nongovernmental organization looks forward to returning home.

“It’s been frightful for the last four years of the war. I didn’t think it would last that long. I’ll never forget the bombing,” she says.

“I want to return once the war ends. Home sweet home is a long way for now.”

Meanwhile, she is moving forward with life. She has started taking manicurist courses. She hasn’t decided yet whether she’ll seek employment at an existing nail salon or start her own business.

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