Dr Saniya Sabzwari developed a four-month curriculum that is being used to teach elderly care assistants.
Pakistan’s elderly population is forecast to triple to over 43 million people over the next three decades, according to the United Nations Population Fund. By 2050, those over the age of 60 are estimated to account for one in six people in the country, a demographic change which has wide-ranging implications for the nursing and healthcare sector.
Family members and domestic servants, who lack expertise in elderly care, are responsible for the majority of day-to-day support for senior citizens. Unfortunately, they lack expertise in elderly care and this skills gap is set to become an even larger problem as the country’s elderly population increases.
“It is common for relatives to miss warning signs of illnesses such as dementia and delirium,” said Dr Sabzwari, an associate professor in family medicine at Aga Khan University. “As the health of their loved one deteriorates, families have to deal with a range of unfamiliar issues that a skilled caregiver could have detected and addressed much earlier.”
Dr Sabzwari is working in partnership with TAF Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that operates a state of the art vocational training institute, to address the shortage of skilled elderly care assistants. She has developed a four-month curriculum that is being used to teach TAFF the basic knowledge and skills needed to care for a senior citizen. The course also emphasises the professional responsibilities of those caring for the elderly by showing them how to provide care with dignity.
“Pakistan has a large informal sector in which untrained domestic staff work as elderly care assistants, servants or maids in homes,” said Aatiqa Lateef, CEO of TAFF. “By working with partners like AKU, we seek to provide the underserved segment of our society much-needed qualifications and practical training in areas such as geriatric care. This enables our graduates to earn a better living while also building a skilled workforce for our future needs.”
The pilot batch from TAFF’s Elderly Care Assistant programme completed their training in December 2017 and is currently being placed in homes and elderly care centers in Karachi.