Reaching out for help


Widaad Jones’s 61-year-old uncle spends his days in front of the TV, unable to wash or clean himself properly after a stroke crippled the left side of his body, and the Lansdowne woman says that despite many months of frantic appeals to the Department of Social Development, she is still no closer to being able to give him the level of care he so desperately needs.

Ms Jones struggles to care for her uncle because she also has to look after her three children, aged 17, 12, and one, as well as her 70-year-old mother.

The family live in a two-bedroom house, and Ms Jones’s uncle, who has been living with them for two years, sleeps in the dining room.

Her uncle does not receive a disability grant because he doesn’t have an ID and has had problems repacing it at the Department of Home Affairs.

Ms Jones first contacted Social Development in Feburary last year to plead her case, but months went by without her getting anywhere.

Then in December, after finding an email address for a top official in the department and emailing him, someone came out to take her uncle to Home Affairs to apply for a new ID as the original had been burnt in a fire.

The department also sent a home-based nurse to wash her uncle twice a week.

But things hit a snag at Home Affairs when Ms Jones’s uncle’s fingerprints could not be read as his fingertips were badly burnt, and officials couldn’t find him in the system. So they applied for a birth certificate instead. Ms Jones was told she would get an SMS to collect it three months later. She is still waiting.

“He can’t even apply for a pension because he doesn’t have an ID,” she said.

Then the nurse the department had sent around stopped coming.

My house has a very bad odour because he cannot wash himself… I can’t just throw him out, I don’t have he heart to do that… I was his favourite child growing up. I have a soft spot for him.

“I have also contacted the social workers from the Hanover Park day hospital for assistance with an old age home but no one can help me because my uncle does not have an ID or receive a pension.”

Sihle Ngobese, spokesman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz’, said the department would contact Ms Jones to investigate.

“Through the Older Persons Programme, social workers will follow up to determine what services are available to her and her family,” said Mr Ngobese.

He said those needing home-based care could also get an appropriate referral from the hospital where they were receiving treatment.

“The family of the patient in need of care can contact the Department of Health or can make contact with the social workers at the hospital which takes care of the patient and they will refer the patient to further care such as occupational therapy or physiotherapy or any other home-based care services provided by the Department of Health,” he said.

“They can also contact the department of social development’s social workers who will then conduct an assessment, and if there is a need for a social grant we will then contact SASSA (The South African Social Security Agency).

He added that due to the demand of patients who need home-based care, the Department of Health can also provide training for the caregiver of the patient to educate him or her about how to handle the patient.