It has been almost eight months since Darülaceze shut its doors to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. The historic nursing home in Istanbul, founded 125 years ago for the elderly and needy, is a pale version of its former self when it teemed with visitors almost every day, but residents do not complain much. The lockdown, after all, helped the place stave off the outbreak that hit elderly citizens harder elsewhere.
Only three cases have been reported at Darülaceze since the beginning of the outbreak in Turkey last March and all recovered. It is a number the facility takes pride in as care homes across the world succumbed to high fatality rates due to the lack of proper responses to the outbreak, which has particularly affected the elderly and people with high infection risk.
Darülaceze was founded in 1895 on the orders of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II, with his personal donations and donations by benefactors. It was originally designed as home for homeless migrants who took shelter in Istanbul, then capital of the Ottoman Empire, in the aftermath of Russo-Turkish War between 1877 and 1878. Throughout its history, it has been a home for the elderly, orphans and homeless people with disabilities.
Time goes by slowly and the elderly have little to do other than walking in the vast courtyard or solving crossword puzzles, a favorite pastime for many. Their loneliness is occasionally broken with phone calls from their relatives. The only relief came in the summer when visitors were allowed to meet with the residents for 15 minutes and by adhering to social distancing in the courtyard.
Abbas Çamur, a resident for 11 years, said days go by well. "We are very careful. I thank the administrators for taking every measure. I only go out for some fresh air and am mostly in my room. We have a beautiful garden here, but we can’t walk as freely as we used to do because of the virus," he said.
"We have some 500 residents and more than 400 personnel, including a dozen doctors. We are doing everything to keep residents comfortable. For instance, we set up a canteen so they can have access to everything they want. Every room is furnished with TVs and telephones," he said. The administration, based on the coronavirus trends, eases or tightens restrictions at Darülaceze.
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