How are older persons in Mamre supported and what services are available to them? These are some of the issues that were discussed at the Older Persons’ Forum held early last month at the local community hall.
The forum was hosted by the Family Caregiving of Older Persons in Southern Africa Programme, together with Lillian Jonker and Adelaide Damon, both Mamre residents. The forum aimed to create a space where older persons and people involved in the care of older persons shared their experiences, challenges and information on caregiving for older persons in the community. The attendees included home-based carers and family caregivers, giving locals an opportunity to raise these challenges to provincial leaders, government departments and service providers.
According to Associate Professor Elena Moore of the Sociology Department at the University of Cape Town, many of these challenges centred around the large gaps in what government provides in terms of services. “These include medication, medical assessments, adult nappies, community home-based care, social worker support services, social grants and people’s ability to access these services. At the heart of it all is the cost of getting to hospitals and SASSA offices in Atlantis or other nearby areas, particularly for people with disabilities.”
With regard to accessing grants at SASSA offices, concerns were also expressed with the way older persons were made to wait long hours to have their applications administered. Attendees raised their concern about the lack of social worker capacity in supporting older persons and their families to access formal care services. “Community care- workers, in addition to family members, are carrying a heavy load in trying to support the care needs of older persons, especially as their case load is very high,” explained Moore.
The care-workers explained their work, which includes washing older persons three times a week and providing respite care so family caregivers could take a break. However, their role also felt restrictive as they felt a sense of constraint in not being able to do more. One participant summarised it: “All we can do is refer. If there is a social problem – welfare. Illness – clinic. Wound they can’t do – clinic.” They highlighted that a greater understanding of their responsibilities and limitations would assist with their daily workload. Broader social and economic challenges that families face in their everyday lives create complications and tensions, and can limit the care they can provide to older persons. “We will be working with the community over the next two years, exploring how families, older persons and caregivers can be better supported. We look forward to further engagement,” Moore said.