They don’t care about us: Older people’s experiences of primary healthcare in Cape Town, South Africa

Type Journal Article - BMC Geriatrics
Title They don’t care about us: Older people’s experiences of primary healthcare in Cape Town, South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2019
As older people age, they have different health needs compared to younger people. South African elder care policy places a strong emphasis on ageing in community rather than institutional settings, but the primary healthcare system is not geared to address the health needs of older people living in community settings. This paper presents findings of nine focus groups conducted with community-dwelling older adults in three areas (high, medium and low-income) in Cape Town, South Africa over 2 months in 2017. These discussions addressed primary health services available to older persons, their ability to access these services and their expectations and experiences of care. Findings showed that while participants in the high-income area had few challenges accessing quality care or support services, services available in lower-income areas were much less responsive and participants displayed low trust in the healthcare system, feeling that their needs were overlooked. Participants who experienced poor doctor-patient communication often failed to comply with treatment, while those who experienced patient-centered communication, either through the private sector or NGO-public sector partnerships had better perceptions of care. Older persons’ complex health needs cannot be adequately addressed by a process-driven approach to care. Supporting patient-centered communication and care may help health workers to understand older persons health needs and improve patient understanding, trust and co-operation. This paper suggests the importance of community support services in enhancing health access and developing systems that enable healthcare providers to better understand and respond to older persons’ needs in resource-constrained settings.

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