BBC Africa Eye Investigation Reveals Theft, Neglect And Mistreatment Of Elderly Residents In Kenya Care Home.
new BBC Africa Eye undercover investigation has found evidence of theft, neglect and mistreatment of elderly residents at a care home in Thogoto, 20km outside Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The year-long investigation was prompted by reports of mistreatment of residents by a whistle-blower.
Led by BBC reporter, Njeri Mwangi, Betrayed: Elderly Care Exposedshows secret footage of staff caning a resident and a staff member admitting to residents being denied food at the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) Thogoto Care Home for the Aged. Referring to one of the residents, the staff member said: “Do you think she will be the first to die of hunger here? Many have died of hunger here. They [carers] deny them lunch, deny them dinner…all because they don’t want to make time to come and feed them.”
Secret filming also reveals evidence of vulnerable residents being left to feed themselves after food was dumped directly onto tables without any plates. The whistle-blower, who is a former employee of the care home, said: “Staff expect them to eat but they don’t have the energy to feed themselves. How have you helped them? You’ve not helped at all…The residents at the home, it’s only God keeping them alive.”
The investigation highlights how Kenyans are increasingly turning to care homes to look after older relatives due to changes in family structures and an increase in life expectancy, which has increased by almost 10 years in the last two decades across Africa.
BBCinvestigators also filmed an elderly resident called Mwangi (not his real name), whosaid he was denied medical care whilst suffering from a painful skin condition. He told an undercover reporter: “I’m feeling pain too much, I feel like I’m burning. You see they can’t take me to hospital.”
The undercover reporter said when concerns around Mwangi’s health were raised with the care home manager, Jane Gaturu, she became angry.
The whistle-blower also alleged the majority of food donated by well-wishers and families, was being stolen. A staff member told BBC investigators that the boardroom was full of donated goods, “but the next morning it was empty.”
Responding to the allegations, Jane Gaturu told the BBC that “allegations that they did not take care of residents who needed medical attention were ‘lies and malice’”. She added: “Residents who struggle to eat are given priority assistance and anyone seen carrying food away from the home should be dismissed”.
She also said: “The home and the management do not condone any form of brutality or aggression towards the aged. Staff have themselves been victims of attacks by residents. The home always observes the rule of law and remains guided by the Christian principles on which it was founded”.
Home to around 50 elderly people, the PCEA Thogoto Care Home for the Aged was set up by the Women’s Guild of the local Presbyterian Church of East Africa but is managed independently.According to the care home manager the home is a “non-profit organisation run on a voluntary basis which depended entirely on donations from well-wishers.” She told the BBC the home does not have a professional medical team and relies on others to provide medical care.
Reflecting on the mistreatment uncovered during the investigation, a BBC undercover reporter said: “I used to cry a lot. Most of the time I used to get to the toilet, switch off my camera and cry. Because to me, taking care of an elderly person is a blessing.”
The number of care homes in Nairobi, Kenya has reportedly almost tripled over the last decade. Like PCEA Thogoto Care Home for the Aged, many of these homes are provided by churches which do not charge rent.
The documentary also highlights alternative care being provided for the elderly in Kenya. Joyce Wanjiku, a former banker, created the Purity Elderly Foundation to help elderly people in her community live with dignity and comfort in their own homes. The foundation supports up to 80 seniors and provides services such as grocery shopping, feeding, and taking them to the hospital. They also reunite families who have fallen apart. Joyce told the BBC that her work is "about giving compassion" and that she does it "with a lot of love."
Commenting on the state of care homes in Kenya, Joyce said that many care homes she has seen are “kept well” and that it was important to “have professionals who are trained and tested.”
Joseph Motari, the Kenya government’s Principal Secretary for Social Protection and Senior Citizen Affairs responded to BBC Africa Eye’s investigation findings. He said he would be doing “spot checks on various private homes” to ensure they “meet the standards that they should be having.” He added: “I want to use this as a warning to any other home that they must not mistreat our older persons… We are willing to take action against any private run old person's homes that mistreat them.”
Watch ‘‘Betrayed: Elderly Care Exposed’’ on BBC Africa’s YouTube channel on Monday 7 August 2023.
Credit ‘BBC Africa Eye