Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many persons who have advanced into late elderly years and fast become unable to look after themselves. Many who have raised children and grandchildren and have been nothing less than giving, caring and supportive in their communities find themselves facing their latter days in isolation, with little assistance and family members who are either not around at all or have limited time to spend with them.
A PAHO supported workshop addressed this and various other issues surrounding The Health of Older Persons in Dominica in September, 2011. The workshop brought together professionals from Barbados, the ECC and sub-regional countries in four days of discussions that included encouraging long term home and community care for senior citizens.
“The Aging population is rapidly increasing in the Caribbean and demands for long term services and supports for older people are set to rise steeply in this region,” according to workshop organizers and aging specialists. While acknowledging that some older persons need to live in institutions, the workshop focused on community and home based care as having health and social benefits for old people their families and communities; the high cost of institutionalized care also noted as an encouraging factor to choose home based care, especially in our small territories. Efforts need to be concentrated then on building awareness of responsibility to care for others around us who have themselves dedicated and contributed to families and communities.
Equally important was discussion which centered on planning for our own care at a reasonable time in life and putting thoughts, plans, and actions in place to secure this care when we reach the age of our elderly parents.
It is out of this training and a keen awareness of the difficulties and often heartbreaking loneliness, isolation and lack of attention of some of the clients reported for assistance at the Department of Social Services that Director, Sandra Maynard who represented the Ministries of Health and Social Development at this training, has launched a new initiative that will concentrate government resources and already existing private sector initiatives for senior citizens in a package that will ease the burden of care-givers. The program will also publicly recognize and applaud those care-givers who have committed themselves to looking after their aging loved ones. Care Givers to the elderly are a group of people who are largely overlooked; many research reports have proved that. They are unappreciated, leave themselves undone and sometimes give up years of their own life, dreams and aspirations to dedicate time to those old persons around them.
In keeping with this new commitment Miss Sandra Maynard, Director; Supervisor in Administration, Ms. Tamecia Lestrade, Olivia Jones, Glorita Vaghn and Juliet Daniel, Community Caregivers; visited and presented awards to Janet Clarke of Butlers village and Calmeta Pinney of Cox Village on 30th October,2012. These two outstanding caregivers were readily identified and lauded by community members and department seniors field workers as two women who have dedicated years caring for their elderly mothers.
Both women were emotional, and graciously accepted the commendations of the Social Services Director and Staff, Ministry Permanent Secretary and Premier Joseph Parry and the NIA for their daily self-less care of their elderly parents.
Their mothers were also present and we were touched by their open gratitude to their daughters who care for them. Miss Iris Pinney had a glow in her face and the aura of a woman who receive the love, care and attention of her family in her own home; what we all want when we grow old, and what the Social Services Department aims to promote through this new program. Miss Pinney said of her daughter, “Calmeta take good care of me, she always looks after me, she goes nowhere you know, and she always looks after me.”
The caregiver’s plaque read:
“Unknown and often unnoticed,
You are a hero none-the-less,
It brings comfort knowing that you are simply there for your loved ones in distress,
It is your finest hour though you may be unaware,
You deserve to be awarded for the passion with which you care….”
The activity marked one of the events to celebrate the Department’s observance of the UN International Seniors Day, 1st October, which for the past five years has seen an entire month of activity coming from the Department’s Seniors Division. This year’s observance included a Church Service at the Butlers Church of God, other community visits to the elderly, a day of reprieve for the staff of the Flambuoyant home; a joint Youth & Seniors Divisions cultural production at NEPAC and an excursion on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway for the department’s seniors recreational groups to end the month’s activities.