‘Craving contact’: a care worker’s view of her clients’ loneliness | Society
Tsitsi Mudokwani, a trained nurse and full-time community care worker, has looked after hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people over the last two decades.
She began working in nursing homes a year after she arrived in the UK from Zimbabwe and went to set up her own community partnership, Sisters Care Service Limited, to look after people in their own homes.
Now 55, she describes the impact of years of austerity on her sector. People who have contributed to society as public sector workers or entrepreneurs are languishing during their finals years, she says, because care workers’ short visits are not enough to stave off loneliness.
Mudokwani and her team of care workers look after 20 people aged 17 to 70 each week under an NHS contract. They provide meals three times a day and help with toilet trips and light housework.
“Often we are the only people they see, they don’t have family and are desperate for some contact, just with another person, someone they can talk to,” she says. “But we are limited in how long we can spend with them as we have to move on to the next client. It’s a sad situation.”
Isolation and loneliness are the biggest concerns, made worse by cuts to schemes such as Dial-a-Ride, a door-to-door bus service for elderly and disabled people, and the closure of many community and day centres, she says.
“When you look after someone who has worked most of their life, contributing to this country, you do think the outcome at the end should have been different for them, a different life, considering how much they have given,” she says. “But they are not being treated as they should be. They do not deserve to spend so much time alone and become depressed.”
Mudokwani talks of her own grandparents, Mhiza and Manema, maize farmers who were looked after by her family until they passed away in a village in the Zimbabwean province of Marondera.
“They were respected and cared for until the end and anything they needed 24/7 we did for them,” she says. “I know the culture here is different but, the government has a responsibility of care to these people like we had with my grandparents … They should not be left alone.”