Dr. Deborah Bender
A Blog from South Africa
by Deborah Bender, PhD, MPH
Health Policy and Management
We Have a Long Way to Go
Saturday, October 13, 2007
“Mirriam worked as a staff nurse in a Home for the Elderly in Cape Town for many years. Though she is retired now, she is not about to slow down! She and the 18 others – all volunteers — regularly make home visits to elderly residents in the Township. They help out with bathing and feeding and ensuring that each resident is taking medicines according to doctor’s prescription.
When Mirriam or one of the volunteers makes a home visit, they sometimes uncover other unexpected problems. Sometimes a daughter has left her children with her elderly mother to go to work. Other times, it is more difficult; the children may live permanently with the elderly relative because they have been orphaned by AIDS, which has taken a parent’s or parents’ lives. The hardest for Mirriam to accept is that some of her elderly, themselves, have contracted HIV/AIDS through being unaware of protective precautions necessary when caring for an infected adult daughter or son.
Mirriam says that TB is also a problem in the community. Again, sometimes people do not take their medicines. But, in this case, Mirriam thinks that it is the doctors who prescribe the medicines who do not understand the community well enough.”
“One of the volunteers made a follow-up visit to the home of a man who did not return to the clinic for his TB meds. The volunteer asked him why he did not come. He answered, simply, ‘The doctor told me to come back for my medicine after I had eaten. I haven’t eaten. That’s why I didn’t come.’”