Caregivers for elderly people need training

20 Oct 2015 14:50pm
WINDHOEK, 20 OCT (NAMPA) - There is a need for appropriate policies and programmes to strengthen support in capacity building for family members and informal family caregivers who take care of elderly people.
This was said by senior lecturer and head of the Social Work Department at the University of Namibia (UNAM), Janet Ananias in a presentation on the well-being of the elderly population in Namibia here on Monday.
Ananias, who spoke at the commencement of a weeklong course on improving the well-being of elderly people and including communities in the process, said that currently, family caregivers do not earn an income for taking care of the elderly.
She explained that the socio-economic environment of the elderly is very important. Many elderly people prefer staying in their own environment instead of old-age homes, and the social environment of the elderly person could be more conducive if appropriate policies and programmes are put in place, Ananias said.
She added that there are countries such as Finland where policies for caregivers are in place, which amongst others sees them remunerated for their work.
The senior lecturer noted that many family caregivers and informal family caregivers, especially in rural areas in Namibia, are not officially trained in taking care of the elderly, and there is a need for capacity building in that area.
She said such family and informal family caregivers only know what they have learned throughout the years with regards to caring for senior citizens.
Ananias indicated that a multi-disciplinary team such as from nursing, public health, agriculture, economists and engineers could play their part and provide some support in strengthening capacity building, providing recognition and some form of incentive for the family and informal family caregivers.
A multidisciplinary team (MDT) is composed of members from different healthcare professions with specialised skills and expertise.
According to Ananias, some challenges faced by caregivers include the high costs of care giving, especially in the case where the elderly person requires the meeting of needs such as nappies and general personal hygiene, because they are bedridden.
“This also makes it very hard as they only rely on the pension of the old person to provide care,” she added.
Uncooperative behaviour of the care recipient is another challenge as some elderly people refuse to eat, bathe and take medication, which can pose a challenge that has a negative impact on caregiving.
Ananias added that lack of support from other family members is also a challenge, saying there are many children and family members, but only one person ends up being the caregiver.
Transport expenses to visit a doctor in the urban areas, she mentioned is another challenge.
Namibia is a signatory to the Madrid International Plan on Ageing and the African Union (AU) Plan of Action on Ageing.
According to the website of the AU Plan of Action on Ageing, continental efforts to address the challenges resulting from an ageing population in Africa started at the 1999 Session of the Organization of the African Union (OAU), now the AU Labour and Social Affairs Commission that was held in Windhoek, Namibia.
The partnership between HelpAge International – Africa Development Centre and the AU has, over time, seen the drafting and finalisation of the AU Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing in Africa. The policy received the final seal of approval during the 38th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Durban, South Africa in July 2002.
The Policy Framework that binds all AU member countries to develop policies on ageing is already being used as a guide in the formulation of national policies to improve the lives of the continent’s elderly people.
The Madrid International Plan of Action adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing in April 2002 offers a bold new agenda for handling the issue of ageing in the 21st century.
It is a resource for policy-making, suggesting ways for Governments, non-governmental organizations and other actors to reorient the ways in which their societies perceive, interact with and care for their elderly citizens.
There are about 144 000 elderly people in Namibia.
The course that opened on Monday and ends Friday brought together social workers and students who are studying social work from Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique and Finland, and work in areas of mental health, physically challenged, the visually impaired and the elderly people in Namibia and Africa.