Most nursing home residents have families that have quit SA, study finds
Emigration by families, lack of support and feeling unsafe are the factors that push elderly people into nursing homes and frail care centres, new research suggests.
Doctors at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) who profiled residents at private long-term care facilities in Durban found most are white, Christian widows.
The majority had chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis, and almost 40% were depressed.
Among 103 residents studied, just over half had relocated to the care facilities because their children lived abroad. A quarter had moved because of physical problems while 5% had mental health challenges.
Even though most had various chronic conditions, about two-thirds lived independently and only about 8% were frail and needed special nursing care.
Most were financially independent, with over 70% supported by family. Over half lived comfortably with multiple sources of funding, including the state pension, funding from NGOs and private resources.
Only 22.5% were not supported by family, 18% didn’t have any children while 7% didn’t have any form of income.
Over 90% of the residents were white, mostly South African, and 55% were widowed. Most were at risk of malnutrition and had mild depression. At least 37.3% were depressed.
Writing in the African Journal of Primary Healthcare and Family Medicine, lead researcher Dr Letasha Kalideen from UKZN’s school of clinical medicine said the mainly white population of nursing homes shows the cultural, socioeconomic and historical influences that affect their use.
She said community education targeting other ethnic groups will be needed to change stereotypes about the use, access and benefit of long-term care facilities.
“Greater proportions of the residents are widows, and hence, we recommend elder care clubs and community engagement and outreach programmes to address social isolation among the elderly.
“This research provides insights into the socioeconomic and clinical characteristics of older residents of long-term care facilities and their reasons for choosing to live there.
"It also highlights residents’ vulnerability to malnutrition, frailty and depression, and suggests urgent needs for clinical and non-clinical interventions to address these priority issues,” Kalideen said.
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