A tale of two countries’ help for older women

Treating older people with respect means being honest with them
about the service they can realistically expect to get, said
Counsel and Care’s chief executive Martin Green.

Older people say they are tired of being asked what they want
but then not being given it. He quoted one older person, who said:
“Why didn’t you just tell me the service I wanted had been cut. You
don’t spare my feelings by not telling me – you spare them by not
cutting the service.”

Green compared the needs and experiences of two older women,
both disabled by arthritis and both named Martha – one in Lambeth,
south London, and the other in Kigali, Uganda, where Green had
worked for an aid agency.

Although in the UK there is a much more developed service
infrastructure, services are not necessarily easy or even possible
for an individual to find out about or access.

Aids and adaptations can make an enormous difference to a
person’s independence and quality of life, he said, but sometimes
the most useful aids can be the simple and cheap things. He said
the Lambeth experience had shown “it’s important that we ask people
what they need rather than assuming they want the expensive, high
technology aids.”

Lambeth’s Martha had a range of adaptations, but said a stick
for picking up papers was the most useful of all her aids.

Kigali’s Martha had difficulty getting about her house, so a
local person built her a simple platform with wheels.

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