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WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Creating elderly care policy

Lisa King

WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Creating elderly care policy

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RETIRED nursing administrator Maureen Ward was concerned the quality of care offered might not keep pace with the growth of homes for the elderly.

So she set about helping to form the Barbados Elderly Care Association to provide advice and support to care homes.

“I felt that there needed to be standardised policies and procedures to adequately take care of the elderly instead of everything being ad hoc,” Ward, the association’s current president, told the MIDWEEK NATION.

She envisioned that caretakers would know about diet and meal planning, how to cook and present food, when to give medication, how to spot signs of health issues and provide a standard of general hygiene and sanitation.

Ward is convinced that the overall quality of care has improved greatly and has been enriched by the association.

“There was a whole gamut of stuff that we realised that needed to be looked at,” she said. “Opening a nursing home is not just putting old people there and combing their hair, giving them a cup of tea. You have to be knowledgeable of what you are doing.”

The association was formed in 2003 with the guidance of then Senior Medical Officer of Health Dr Joy St John, and Ward said it came about after the Government came up with the Alternative Care Programme for the Elderly, under which elderly persons were placed in private nursing homes and their fees paid by the state. At that time there were only five nursing homes and the owners decided to meet regularly and discuss issues impacting their operations. More homes came on board and the association became the voice for senior and elder care facilities.

In-depth training

Ward said prior to the association, the Government did have some guidelines in place and monitored and registered the homes but education of caretakers did not have as much prominence as it should.

Therefore, a new in-depth training programme on care of the elderly was initiated to replace the “little six-week course or a three-month course here and there”, and sanctioned by the Barbados Nursing Council.

Participants in the now 14-month programme engage in weekly classroom sessions. Ward said there was a good uptake and it seemed that everyone wanted to be trained, so the programme was being done in batches to facilitate all applicants.

She has transformed a room at her nursing home into a classroom where some of the classes are now held.

Ward, who was a registered nurse trained in Britain in midwifery and public health nursing, does some of the classes. The 70-year-old started in the field of nursing when she was 18 years and worked in Britain before returning home and managing the St Joseph Hospital and moving on to the Maurice Byer Polyclinic before retiring in 2001. She then opened the Roy Wardeen Caring Home at Friendly Hall, St Lucy where she has 29 residents.

Also administering some of the courses is former president and founding member Dr Edward Thompson who also uses his Ivy, St Michael doctor’s office to facilitate meetings of the association. Thompson teaches anatomy and physiology.

First aid is also taught while Ward does the classes on spiritual needs. She said that when people are old, there is a lot of emphasis on their spiritual needs and the caretaker needs to understand, tolerate and appreciate various religions.

In addition to the training programme, the association hosts workshops for owners to keep them up to date on developments in the area of elderly care.

Ward said there were over 60 senior care homes on the island, but the association has only 35 members.

“One of our major goals was to get more of the nursing homes involved and to get them to run their homes in a more professional way,” she said. “It is not only about the money, but it is about quality care and client satisfaction.”

All senior citizens homes are monitored and have to get their licences renewed by Government but Ward said the sharing of knowledge and the help that they could get as a collective group was an advantage.

Ward added that the training was not just for those who work in senior citizens homes but anyone who has to care for an elderly person. With people living longer and the percentage of the elderly expected to increase as the years go by, Ward said the more people who are trained the better.

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