Caring for the elderly, South African style: what can the UK learn?

Published: 12 Jan 2015

Caring for the elderly, South African style: what can the UK learn?

Gillian Moncaster travelled to South Africa to investigate the dignity and dementia aspects of residential, nursing and domiciliary care for the elderly.

Gillian works in Children’s and Families’ Social Care at Manchester City Council and chairs the North West Dignity Network. An important part of her work is developing tools and techniques to help care workers fully respect the dignity, choice and independence of each individual person in their care.

This year she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which enabled a 6-week visit to care homes in Johannesburg and Cape Town, to exchange information and experience, and establish contacts for continuing mutual benefit.  She also attended the international conference of the Care Forum of South Africa where she presented a paper and workshop.

The care homes ranged from those in the vast townships, where some residents survive on £80 a month, to five star facilities, including some that specialise in dementia care.

While care problems in South Africa were similar to those in the UK, Gillian found that families and communities were more involved in providing or raising funds for care. Other notable practices included pet animals living in care homes, and residents helping with household tasks such as food preparation. South African care homes are also about to pilot a scheme that houses grandchildren with their grandparents.

“I intend to use my experiences to explore ways of encouraging more involvement of families and communities in care, and a more enlightened view in making risk assessments that promises to bring valuable benefits to people in care,” said Gillian.

Gillian presented a summary of her visit at the National Dignity Council's conference in October, and will be disseminating the results widely through presentations and papers.                                                                                                                                                                   

Contact Gillian:

[email protected]