Who will care for me when I get old?

It’s no secret that the world’s population is ageing. In South Africa, the percentage of people aged 60 and over grew from 7.2% in 2002 to 9.1% in 2022.

Along with an ageing population, life expectancy is creeping up. Knowing that you’re likely to live longer might be good news. But, the older you get, the more susceptible you become to chronic health conditions, such as dementia, stroke, heart disease and arthritis.

Have you thought about who will look after you if become incapacitated? Will you be able to afford the cost of elder care? And what about quality of life? If you live alone and you could no longer get out and about to visit friends, would you suffer feelings of loneliness and isolation?

Family and close friends

Traditionally, older people have depended on their families – to help ends meet, provide a home, or physically care for them. But if sons and daughters have emigrated to a different country, or are busy raising their own families and building careers, this might not be possible.

Even if they live nearby, your grown up children may not be in a position to invite you to live with them. Or able to visit every day to help you cope with the tasks of daily living. And if they are juggling mortgage repayments and school fees, they may not be in a position to offer financial support either.

Cost of elder care

If you live in a retirement home with a frail care wing or service, you may be lulled into a false sense of security, believing that these facilities will be available to you should the need arise. It can come as quite a shock to find out that they come with an additional, high price tag.

Most retirement homes charge around R30 000 to R40 000 per month for full time frail care. Not many seniors can manage this sort of cost, even if children are willing and able to chip in.

Along with health concerns, the biggest fear of many older people is running out of money. Despite having saved for your golden years, rampant inflation means that as time passes you may have less and less to live on.

Home based elder care

A more affordable option is to have a carer come in most days to help you. Prices vary considerably, depending on the number of hours worked and the calibre of the carer. Those who are well trained, with a genuine passion for the work, are more expensive. But it’s worth paying a bit extra to get quality care and convivial companionship.

Beware low cost services. Carers may not be properly trained, resulting in disinterest, neglect or even abuse.

Live in carer

If you have a spare bedroom at home, consider offering a ‘live in’ carer position. This can help reduce the cost of elder care, as your carer saves on the cost of accommodation and travel.

An added benefit is that, although you may not be employing your carer to look after you 24 hours a day, she will be there, day and night, in case of an emergency.

Provide training for your domestic worker

If you already have a trusted domestic worker, consider offering her the opportunity to train as a carer. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. You’ll equip her with the skills she needs to provide you with proper care, and she’ll have extra, useful qualifications to add to her CV.

Online courses are available for distance learning. Or you can contact an organisation like Wits Hospice or KZN Care Association for hands on courses designed specifically for elder care.

Use an agency

If you need help and advice finding a suitable carer, contact an organisation like Tafta. Click here to find out all about our home based care service. We have a long track record of providing excellent care – both within our buildings and in clients’ own homes. Fees are charged on a sliding scale according to your means, making the cost of elder care affordable to all. Or search ‘suppliers of elder care in South Africa’ on Google for more options.

Be sure to compare prices and services carefully. Choose a reputable agency and discuss with them how to tailor the costs to ensure that you or your loved ones get the most for your budget.

The goal is to ensure that you enjoy quality of life throughout your senior years, regardless of your state of health. And that you have everything you need to ensure your dignity, comfort and happiness.