Elderly Info

The food crisis in Guatemala is having a devastating effect on the elderly. Without enough to eat, many older people are becoming weak and malnourished, leaving them more vulnerable to illnesses that they cannot afford medical care for. They are unable to provide for even their most basic needs. In many cases, family members are unable to help as they struggle to feed themselves and their own children, leaving the elderly without any form of support and often living in heartbreaking conditions.

Please help us bring them the life-sustaining food and medical care that they so desperately need. General donations are used to ensure that we always have an adequate supply of food, medicine, and funds for meals, necessary medical treatment, and transportation. Monthly sponsorship would help feed one person, once a day for five days a week. Via blog and web album, we'll show you exactly where your aid is going and help you get to know the men and women whose lives you are changing.

If you would like to sponsor an elderly person for $35 a month, please click here and write "monthly sponsorship'' in the Other box. To make a one-time donation for medicine, rent, or other costs, please click here and enter "Elderly Care Program" in the Other box. Any questions can be directed to Amy at amy@mayanfamilies.org

Media on Mayan Families Elderly

Ancianos : Megan Gette + photos by Rob Bain, Nisa East, Rhett Hammerton and Hiroko Tanaka

Mayan Families- Ancianos Stories : Nisa East

Mayan Families Elderly Feeding Care Program : Rhett Hammerton

Facing Hunger: Elderly in Rural Guatemala

Dec 15, 2012

San Jorge Clinic

San Jorge, where half of the Elderly in our Feeding Care program live, is a village situated on a mountainside above Lake Atitlán. Many do not have access to clean water. They use the community pila-- a large concrete sink in the middle of 
town-- to wash their dishes and clothes, or themselves. The water that comes from it is not drinkable, although it is the only water source for many. Because they live on a mountainside, many fill large jugs of water and carry it long distances, up or downhill, to their homes. Drinking this water may give parasites and other gastro-intestinal illnesses suffered by many of our elderly. 

In addition, there is no market in San Jorge to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, so the majority go up to Sololá on Fridays to buy their food. This too requires climbing up and down a mountainside to take a public bus to the village, and carrying their week's load of food back to their homes. They must pay the bus fare in addition to their groceries, often too great an expense for those who haven't worked in years. This is why many of our Elderly only eat once a day, as the food from the Program can be delivered to them if they are disabled, ill or otherwise unable to come to the comedor-- the dining hall. The produce they get is also often contaminated. While everyone is encouraged to disinfect their food before eating, the special disinfectant found in grocery stores is yet another expense. Most fail to disinfect their produce, or if they do, use bleach. 

Furthermore, an aging body is unable to work in a place where the only jobs available require physical labor. Many carry their loads of water, groceries, or bundles of wood to survive anyway, leaving them with the same exhaustion, but without a cent to show for it.

This combination of conditions leads to common illnesses: gastritis, parasites or intestinal infections, pain, arthritis-- while treatable with antibiotics or pain meds, their symptoms are often tolerated by our Elderly, who in order to get medicine must think of all the hazards in their way: the mountain, the money, the load they carry, dirty food and dirty water.

Yesterday, December 14 2012, we brought our in-house Dr. Luis DePeña to San Jorge to check on our Elderly and their various complaints. Most do not have access to medical care aside from visiting clinics or the days of the week the Centro de Salud (Health Center) is open. To receive more extensive medical care they need to take a chicken bus to Sololá, a neighboring village. Many of our Elderly, especially those most in need of care, rarely leave their beds, much less walk the long way up the hill to take a public bus to the hospital. More significantly, they cannot afford the medicines they are prescribed, so often go without treating their conditions. 

Our doctor was able to treat at least a few, while providing a much-needed check up for over 25 Elderly. Of these:

  • All were given vitamins & their blood pressure was checked
  • 6 were treated for gastritis
  • 11 were treated for headaches & arthritis
  • 1 was prescribed antibiotics for a UTI
  • Santos Palax A68, was referred to a hospital to have the mass in his chest confirmed as a cyst or cancer
  • Gregoria A89 was treated for gastritis, and has plans for a follow-up evaluation to confirm if her condition is improved: if not she will need to undergo further treatment for an ulcer
  • Juana A44 was treated for gastritis, under the same premise that if her condition is improved, she will not need to have a second ultrasound. If the condition has indeed progressed to stomach cancer, she will need to undergo treatment

If you would like to provide a water filter to someone who does not have access to clean water, which would help them prevent waterborne illnesses, new Sawyer filters last 10 years and cost $96. You may either scroll through the bios of the Elderly on the right to see if their needs list "water filter" and write their number in the Other box of the Donate Now page, or simply donate a water filter to our Elderly Care program and we will provide it to someone in need.

If you would like to contribute to our Elderly Medical Fund, this would allow someone or several to get their prescriptions filled. Often, they are prescribed medications that are for very treatable conditions that are common in Guatemala, due to poor water conditions, lack of access to nutritious food, and poor hygiene. The meds they need are therefore readily available, but our Elderly cannot afford them. Please write "Elderly Medical Fund" in the Other box of our Donate Now page if you would like to contribute to getting these prescriptions filled.  

While needed, Mayan Families has not received donations for disposable diapers in some time, so we were unable to provide them to those who asked for them. A 3-5 weeks supply costs $60. If you would like to donate these to our Elderly, please write "Disposable diapers" in the Other box here. Thank you!

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