The practice of sending older people and those who need special care to specialized centres are rare in Ethiopia. Instead, they remain at home, depending on their loved ones. Caregiving for the elderly and long-term patients usually remains the responsibility of family members. The practice has been tied so closely to African tradition that there is even a saying that “Because you [i.e., the child’s older parents] have taken care of me to grow teeth, I will take care of you till your teeth fall out. As young men and women now would rather spend their day at their schools and jobs than take care of the elderly and sick, this tradition seems to be changing slowly but surely, writes EBR’s Eden Teshome.
Yesufanta Bisrat fell, resulting in a twisted ankle and hip surgery. After he was done with the procedure and discharged from the hospital, he needed someone to care for him as he was in a wheelchair.
“I couldn’t move my leg for nearly a month after surgery, so I wondered where I would go,” Yesufanta says. “Even though my family is nearby, they are also quite busy.”
Since he had to be in a wheelchair, he also needed someone to serve him meals, as he hadn’t been able to do much since the incident. In addition, he also needs help going to the toilet, so he needs someone to take care of him.
Because family members are frequently engaged in day-to-day activities, this may unintentionally cause them to neglect older people. Due to the increasing number of seniors living in the community and family caregivers being frequently busy, older people can quickly feel unappreciated, which could be bad for their health.
Nursing homes are helpful in situations like these. A nursing home’s primary goal is to offer assistance and care to older people who require it and have special medical issues or impairments that make daily life difficult for them.
Residents of a nursing home care facility have access to competent nursing care and 24-hour medical treatment because there is always at least one qualified and registered nurse on the premises.
In Ethiopia, traditional beliefs presuppose that younger family members will care for older people. Families, including children and relatives, are expected to care for the elderly; thus, helping them is seen as a blessing and a good opportunity for children.
However, relying solely on families’ results in unreliable care, and the family caregivers, typically women and girls are burdened financially, psychologically, socially, and physically. Similarly, unstable employment and poverty can lead to inadequate family care.
Family caregivers frequently lack the finances necessary to offer better care or are compelled to choose between neglecting their dependent relative or their work, school, or other economic pursuits. Caregiving can frequently harm a person’s health, leaving them with less time to focus on their needs. In addition, the financial expenditures for providing care might also be high.
“I asked my family for advice, and they told me about a caregiving Centre,” says Yesufanta.
Doing some research, he discovered Grace Nursing Home, a Centre that would best serve his interests. Yesufanta spent almost a month at the Centre, receiving the care the Centre offered until he recovered.
“It feels like home; the staff is like a family,” Yesufanta says of the atmosphere at the Centre.
Some nursing homes offer specialized care centres; they have staff members who look after resident patients with a particular medical condition. The facility might focus on providing care for those with dementia, severe learning difficulties, or other conditions.
While all nursing homes provide housing and personal care, certain speciality nursing homes also offer additional services for residents with more complex requirements. Private companies, local entities, or charitable organizations may manage care facilities.
Dr Natnael Hailu and Dr Tsion Solomon founded Grace Nursing Home. A familiar relative of theirs who had Parkinson’s disease and only had his son to care for him inspired Dr Natnael, a medical doctor who graduated from Hayat Medical College, and his partner, Dr Tsion, who both work in private and public hospitals, to start a nursing home in Addis Ababa.
“Given that he had to support his father while also working, it was difficult for his son,” Dr Natnael says. “Dr Tsion and I occasionally visited him at home and offered our assistance when possible.”
Dr Natnael and his colleague witnessed situations like these at the hospitals where they work. The case prompted the two to decide to start a nursing home. They were well aware that many would desperately need the services of such a Centre.
“But it was a little difficult because nursing homes are not something our tradition is familiar with. Most of us are accustomed to keeping our elders at home when they cannot care for themselves. However, we are making progress in raising awareness after broadening the range of services we offer thanks to the numerous testimonies from our residents who helped raise so much awareness,” says Dr Natnael.
Most family caregivers need proper advice on handling complex health issues while providing care. According to Dr Natnael, few caregivers are familiar with dementia, how it affects behaviour, and how to better the lives of senior patients.
“We generally admit all senior patients with chronic illnesses that are not contagious, such as pneumonia, because it can spread from person to person, or those who don’t need psychiatric care because those are acute instances that need treatment in hospitals. We currently have ten nursing staff and three physicians, including myself, and we have plans to expand in different cities,” said Dr Natnael.
Long-term caregiving service is witnessing a quick transformation lately, leaving urgent shortages of service providers. While the Ethiopian population, like the rest of the world, is ageing, support systems from extended families are deteriorating over time, calling for new policy interventions to enhance senior citizens’ long-term care. The situation creates an opportunity for bold and strategic reform. Cultural sensitivity is a big concern in this activity, involving non-governmental organizations, social institutions, volunteer groups, other pertinent stakeholders, and government authorities.
The population is rapidly ageing in several African nations, especially in the 60 years and older segment, which is growing even more quickly. More than 5 Pct of Ethiopia’s population accounts aged people above 60. This proportion of senior citizens will increase to nine per cent by 2050.
According to the Ghana Statistical Service (2013), the geriatric population in Ghana increased from 213,477 in 1960 to 1,643,381 in 2010, almost an eightfold growth in 50 years. Women make 56Pct, while men represent 44Pct of those 60 and older.
As the living standard improves and life expectancy increases, the size of the geriatric population also increases in many countries, calling for more caregivers.
11th Year • June 2023 • No. 118 EBR