The increased risk of contracting COVID-19 amongst the elderly in care homes is accelerated by contact with care workers, family members and other members of staff coming from the outside into the facility. The need to train staff members to provide care for the elderly and those with age related cognitive conditions, including dementia, anxiety and depression, became critical as the virus started to spread in South Africa. Elderly people require extra precautions, considering their risk. Those with age related cognitive conditions may react negatively to a change in environment and suddenly being faced with a PPE clad staff member.
To address this RMB and FNB, through the FirstRand SPIRE fund, are supporting appropriate healthcare organisations to develop and facilitate training for staff members who operate in care homes.
With a long history of training and access to a host of master trainers, the Centre for HIV-AIDS Prevention Studies (CHAPS) was approached to develop and facilitate training for care home staff. CHAPS has a long history of providing training for voluntary medical male circumcision and employs a host of Master Trainers.
In partnership with the Department of Social Development the CHAPS team created the curriculum over a series of online sessions. The training prioritises care workers and guides their daily interactions with residents in old age homes, with a particular focus on managing COVID-19 risks and PPE requirements in this fragile environment.
A helpline is available for care workers, should they need clarity on course material or assistance with difficult cases. Additional funding for airtime and data costs further facilitates the training and ensures that everyone has access to this resource.
The ultimate project goal is to train care workers at 489 homes in high transmission areas. To date, over 90 care workers from ten homes in Chatsworth, Arcadia (Pretoria), Malabar (Port Elizabeth), Dundee (KwaZulu-Natal), Newlands (Cape Town), Lamontville (Durban), Iqadi (KwaZulu-Natal), Kraaifontein (Cape Town) have been trained.
The training also prioritises compassionate care for care workers themselves, as they are exposed to increased levels of pressure and stress. Through the training they can acquire the necessary coping mechanisms and are supported in maintaining their own mental health.
Trainees have responded positively to the course content, acknowledging and appreciating updates on COVID-19 protocols and further insight on the virus.
Information on COVID-19 changes daily. The public healthcare sector is, however, resilient and up to date with protocols in order to empower and safeguard care workers and the vulnerable.