Bernadette Sobhion is a supervisor at the Finbar Ryan
home and has been on the staff since its inception in 1987.
Sobhion says that in those days, the matron lived at the
home and single-handedly took care of the 14 residents.
Apart from the matron, she says that she herself was
employed as a cook and another person served as a janitor.
Within the first month or so, she added, there was
someone employed as a washer.
Of the first residents Sobhion says they ranged from
75 to 97 years of age. Most of these came from Nazareth
House on Duncan Street, Port of Spain and at first
reacted negatively to their new surroundings: "'They
bring us here to kill us!' some of them were saying.
Then we also had to resolve small conflicts that flared
up among the residents from time to time. All of that
was part of the process."she
"It was tough but patience won the day." Of course,
as with any new institution with a small staff, hours
were long and the work plentiful, but all this changed
with time. After the second wing was opened in 1989,
more staff were added. Around this period too, Sobhion
was taking courses in Geriatric care and she was promoted
from cook to care-giver.
Sobhion explains that there are specific problems associated
with the aging process. The first is the obvious physical
decline that comes with the passage of time. Care of the
elderly could involve persons who are either totally incapacitated
or who enjoy good health and are able to help themselves.
In either case the loss of independence which often
accompanies old age, is a burden that many find hard
to bear. Some may find it difficult to adjust to
institutional living and may rebel. The elderly,
may also suffer acute feelings of abandonment.
Daniel, a supervisor who joined the staff in 1990
as a washer says: "Sometimes you hear people
say things like: 'When I was young, I had so-and-so, now
that I'm old, I have nothing.'" Sobhion agrees: "We have
residents who have never had a visitor."