Challenging work of social care
In November 2022, Lyudmila joined HelpAge International s large team of social care workers who support older people across Ukraine. Despite making up a quarter of the country’s population, older people s specific needs in the war are often neglected. The organisation s most recent survey finds that this group receives less assistance and is generally worse off than the rest of the population. HelpAge has been relying on social care workers since 2014 to understand their needs, support them, and advocate for a more inclusive humanitarian response.
The work is challenging, especially in the context of the full-scale invasion and broader humanitarian crisis. Some of these cases are impressive stories of survival. Lyudmila recalls a 90- and 66-year-old mother and daughter who spent over 40 days in the basement before managing to evacuate to safety. Having lost everything they had, they had to start over, battling the challenges of displacement and deteriorating health.
Lyudmila explains why she chose such an emotionally taxing occupation after retirement: I love people. I enjoy interacting with them. I am happy with them and feel for them. When I heard that social workers were needed, it was an easy decision to make.
She has eleven people under her care whom she visits regularly to provide psychosocial support, aid, and information on available assistance. That s eleven different personalities, eleven different sets of circumstances and needs, she says.
After having to flee Luhansk and Donetsk regions, most of them now live in a shelter. With an average pension of 115 GBP as their only income, they struggle to cover basic needs. Some gaps are filled through international organisations such as HelpAge which delivers support such as commode chairs, walking canes and incontinence pads.
The biggest challenge for most is access to medicines: the only pharmacy in the area is not well stocked and a trip to the neighbouring village can be a challenge as public transport is scarce.
Lyudmila stresses that they need more support. Luckily, being from the same community and having similar experiences, she understands their situation and can be of help just by being there: They are very vulnerable to stress sometimes all you can do is be a shoulder to cry on. You may not always be able to solve their problems but they like knowing that someone listens, someone understands.