A pilot study on the development and testing of an instrument for assessment of dependency needs of older persons in South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

With the advent of the new government and the end of the apartheid era, the Department of Welfare investigated methods whereby the demand for equitable access to state subsidised homes for the aged might be met. It was decided to develop an instrument to assess dependency needs of older persons that might warrant admission to homes for the aged. Financial constraints dictated that only 2% of those over the age of 65 years could be institutionalised in state subsidised homes. An instrument with high specificity and sensitivity and good face and construct validity was required in order not to exclude the needy or include the undeserving in subsidised institutional care. The instrument formerly used in South Africa was designed to assess dependency needs of urban-living individuals and assumed relative affluence in contrast to the reality of the situation of the bulk of the South African population. The instrument was deficient in that it assessed only mental and physical disabilities. It did not take into account the wide disparities relating to primary needs (such as water, food, sanitation and security) that exist among communities with widely disparate socio-economic status. Since South Africa is a developing country, a significant component of the elderly population live in extreme poverty, often in rural subsistence-economy conditions. Instruments used in other countries, which assume a certain level affluence, are thus not applicable to the majority of the South African population.

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