Geriatric Care


Elderly people often require specialised health services. These may have to be accompanied by other specialised services, such as housing or transport services.

General Health Services for the Elderly

Although the running of Old Age Homes (OAH) for the aged/elderly is a function of the provincial Department of Social Development, the Department of Health is indirectly involved in the health needs of the aged. Elderly patients, including those with chronic illnesses, can access health care at all levels for medication, rehabilitation and other health needs. Patients may go on their own from OAHs, their houses or residencies to and from clinics or hospitals when necessary. Transport may be provided by some OAHs. In addition, the Department checks on the nutrition aspect of meals served at OAHs for the elderly. Home-based care is also available to the aged and can be accessed via the community health centres in the Metro. This service became available to the aged in the rural areas after March 2004.

Abuse of the Elderly

Abuse of elderly people is a serious problem and is dealt with jointly by the provincial Departments of Social Development and Health, and sometimes the Department of Community Safety. The new Aged Persons' Bill deals with abuse of the aged, and who should report the incidents.

The causes of abuse are varied. However, it is more likely to occur if the older person is physically dependent, lacks sufficient income to be self-sufficient, cannot remember, or becomes indecisive and confused. Other possible factors include poverty, unemployment, inappropriate housing, marital difficulties, alcohol and drug abuse and poor communication with or by the older person. Of the five areas of abuse (physical, emotional, financial, neglect and sexual), physical is the most harmful, causing physical, emotional and psychological pain and distress.

Health staff at all levels of care can inform family and friends about what to look out for if they suspect that there is abuse of the elderly, whether it happens in the older person's home, an OAH/old age institution or other places of board and lodging. Health staff will keep a register of all reported cases of abuse.

Families and the public can report abuse to their nearest Welfare office. There is also a national helpline (0800 0030 81) to report abuse.

By phoning the social welfare services in an emergency, an older person can be placed in a safe place at a few old age homes for a short time until accommodation can be arranged or the problem is sorted out.

Assistive Devices

Health services offer assistive devices, such as wheelchairs to the elderly, to make them less dependent. They are also encouraged to join support groups for the elderly. Elderly folk should be encouraged to stay in their own homes with support for as long as they can. Older persons should know their rights so that they are empowered to report circumstances that are not desirable.


First-time visitors to the clinic/secondary or tertiary hospital will be asked to fill out a form and a folder will be opened. Bring your ID book. A referral letter from the clinic is required when visiting a hospital. Hospitals will ask for your most recent payslip/income assessment (IRP5). Bring your hospital card if previously registered at the hospital.

Provided by:
Government Body: (Western Cape Government)

Free at primary health care clinics, but there is a cost involved when visiting hospitals. This is based on how much you earn and on how many dependents you have, according to the hospital rating scale. There were plans to make all assistive devices free of charge from 1 July, 2003.

The content on this page was last updated on 3 October 2013