12 elders infected at care home: ‘Most elders’ homes in WP full’

By Dinitha Rathnayake


With a total of 12 persons at an elders’ home in Pitabeddara being infected with Covid-19, the need for more elderly care homes has been heightened, as most of the existing homes are operating at full capacity.

“Although old age is a very sensitive and fragile period in life where elderly people need extra care and comfort, we are presently running out of space for senior citizens. Most of the homes are operating at full capacity. Therefore, we need more elderly care homes to accommodate the increasing numbers of elders. In the Western Province, we have only 91 elders’ homes which are registered, 90 of which are managed by the private sector,” Department of Social Services of the Western Province Director Chandima Dissanayake told The Morning yesterday (26).

The current elderly population in the Western Province is two million, departmental statistics revealed. Dissanayake said that the elderly population in the Province has grown rapidly in the past several decades, stretching the resources available to take care of the elderly, which have not parallely developed to meet the rising demand and increase in the provision of services pertaining to related needs, beyond maximum capacity.

“We get about 12 requests per month for elderly home-based care. The enrollment of senior citizens who are above 60 years of age for home care is done under the recommendation of the divisional secretariats, who get information regarding elders through social services officers and grama niladharis,” noted Dissanayake.

Low wages for staff working at elders’ homes is also leading to a shortage of carers, she added.

Meanwhile, State Minister of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics, and Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle also pointed out the need for the acceleration of services provided to the elderly.

In a press release issued on 25 January, she stated: “Elders who have sacrificed their blood, tears, sweat, labour, money, and energy for our generation need to be freed from pressures with love, care, protection, and nourishment. They should not be neglected or marginalised.”

According to Dr. Fernandopulle, amendments should be introduced to the Protection of the Rights of Elders Act, while committees on elders should be more active in this regard.

For instance, the “Elderly Disease Aid Scheme”, as well as the issuance of their identity cards, and the provision of elderly assistance should be stepped up, she noted.

Insufficient infrastructure-related material, physical resources, and inadequate human resources in elders’ homes in the Western Province have affected the care services afforded to the rapidly increasing elderly population in the Province, which has now also been afflicted by Covid-19, The Morning learnt.

A total of 12 persons at an elders’ home in Pitabeddara tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, and the Southern Province Commissioner of Social Welfare, Probation and Child Care, Mahesh Rajitha Karunanayake told The Morning that two of them were staff members.

He added that necessary steps had been taken to control the situation. 

“No one was allowed to come inside these elders’ homes, which are registered under the Department of Social Services, and we do not allow any food from outside. If there is a donation, we recommend donors to give dry rations. This incident was reported due to a staff member being infected with Covid-19,” added Karunanayake.

Elders are at greater risk of requiring hospitalisation or dying if they are diagnosed with Covid-19, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).