It’s not enough just to have a roof over their heads.

From the beginning, we understood that feeding and helping to house impoverished and homeless elders would be insufficient if they were unsafe, or living in unsanitary conditions.

This is why we made the decision, back in 2017, to involve the Women & Social Welfare Ministry in Nepal, when we discovered the conditions at an elder care home outside of Thamel, Kathmandu.

While elders have the rights, here in the U.S., to make their own decisions regarding their care, it is still the responsibility of the facility or caregivers to ensure that these elders are still clean, dry, and safe. If these elders are not clean and dry, it is considered abuse and neglect of care.

On page 45, of the U.N.’s Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (2002), they state:

Policies are required that empower older persons and support their contribution to society. This includes access to basic services such as clean water and adequate food.

They further acknowledge that:

It is recognized that good housing can promote good health and well-being.

This particular elder care home frequently ran out of clean running water and drinking water for several days at a time; the volunteers who cooked for the elders and maintained the facility resorted to pumping water from the sewers for cleaning and washing dishes. This is the water the elders would use to wash up.

While there were flush toilets instead of the traditional pan toilets, none of the flush toilets were bolted to the floor, nor did they adequately flush; most simply seeped sewage from the base when flushed. Others sprayed water from broken pipes. It appeared the toilets didn’t adequately drain anywhere.

Additionally, the two oldest of the residents, both in their 80s, lived in unsanitary conditions. Alicia personally cleaned their bathroom, which was the size of a handicapped bathroom stall in the U.S., and it took her 90 minutes to complete the task. Their room was so fetid, you could smell it from the other side of the building.

We felt this environment was unacceptable for the residents at the facility, and the Ministry agreed.

Within weeks, changes were implemented to improve the living conditions, including lights around and inside the building, and repairs of the toilets and the system.

We were unable to return to document the changes fully, as we were made aware we were not welcomed back. As it turns out, this facility had never registered with the government, so no one had been checking on the residents or the conditions.

Now, they are getting improved housing and improved care.