Ron Smith Care Centre is the first organisation in Gauteng – and the second in Africa – to become a member of Eden Alternative South Africa registry. This means that the Rand Aid Association care centre in Lyndhurst has joined over 350 international long-term care communities committed to improving the quality of life and care for the people they serve.
Founded in the USA in 1991 by Dr William Thomas, a Harvard-educated physician and Board Certified Geriatrician, the Eden Alternative is a small not-for-profit organisation already making a big difference across the world. The philosophy is based on the core belief that aging should be a continued stage of development and growth, rather than a period of decline.
The core concept of the Eden Alternative is strikingly simple. It is about teaching us to see places where elders live as habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the frail and elderly. This approach supports the creation of communities which eliminate the plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa (centre), presents an official Eden plaque to Rae Brown, Rand Aid CEO (right), and Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division.
A milestone worth celebrating
On November 24, 2016, gaily-decorated tables were set up inside a marquee in the grounds of Ron Smith Care Centre and residents, staff members, volunteers and members of the Rand Aid board and village committees gathered to witness Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa, present an official Eden plaque to Rae Brown, Rand Aid CEO, and Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division.
The care centre began its Eden Alternative journey in 2012, with a presentation by Rayne to the Rand Aid board, and since then, has made a number of physical and operational changes to meet Eden Alternative assessment criteria.
“Ladies and gentlemen, whoever said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, was wrong,” said Zabeth at the celebration. “Here we are, after 26 years, and the Ron Smith Care Centre has been transformed.
“In 1990, when this care centre was built, everyone still thought that residential care for elders should resemble hospitals, both in structure and services.”
She explained that then, excellent nursing care, good housekeeping, nutritious food and efficient administration were considered sufficient when it came to the care of older persons.
“But so much more is needed,” she added. “Through our Eden Alternative journey, we realised that our mission is not simply to nurse patients. Our starting point should be to provide a real HOME for each elder who chooses to live with us. A home where each person feels valued, has the opportunity to grow, to develop new interests, practice old and new hobbies, socialise with family and friends, contribute to the community, and have meaningful relationships with staff and other elders.
“In short, we must ensure that each elder is enabled to live life to the fullest as part of a loving, caring and supportive family. And in surroundings that resemble home as much as possible.”
Chairman of the Rand Aid Board, John Robinson explained how Rand Aid has changed over the years and committed to working towards the roll-out of Eden principles at all Rand Aid properties.
Board member Neil Garden congratulated management and staff on their achievement, saying they go about their work with great enthusiasm and compassion.
“What an honour it is to be in the presence of excellence,” said Rayne. “I find it fascinating that an organisation that supports our elders should be taking the lead to show the world what service excellence is about.”
Jill Jones spoke on behalf of her fellow residents, saying, “We are treated as individuals with different needs and wants. Many of our sisters and carers should be sprouting angel wings or haloes as they go about their daily tasks.”
For information on the Eden Alternative South Africa, please visit their website at www.edenalt.co.za. More can be learnt about the Ron Smith Care Centre at www.randaid.co.za
Address at the Eden Alternative Milestone One Celebration in November 2016 by Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division
Ladies and Gentlemen, whoever said that one cannot teach an old dog new tricks, was wrong.
Here we are, after 26 years, and the Ron Smith Care Centre has been transformed. In 1990, when this care centre was built, everyone still thought that residential care for elders should resemble hospitals, both in structure and services. This explains our long passages and previously very institutional bathrooms. As far as services goes, excellent nursing care, good housekeeping, nutritious food and efficient administration are important in hospital care. These services are also essential in residential care for elders, but here they have to be so much more. All services have to be infused with the spirit and values of the Eden Alternative.
Through our Eden Alternative journey we realised that our mission is not simply to nurse patients. Our starting point should be to provide a real HOME for each elder who chooses to live with us. A home where each person feels valued, has the opportunity to grow, to develop new interests, practice old and new hobbies, socialise with family and friends, contribute to the community, and have meaningful relationships with staff and other elders. In short, we must ensure that each elder is enabled to live life to the fullest as part of a loving, caring and supportive family. And in surroundings that resemble home as much as possible.
Rayne [Stroebel, Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa], we thank you and the Eden team for being so supportive during the past four years. You have given freely of your expertise and experience. We are celebrating a huge milestone today. At the same time we realise this is not the destination. It is just the beginning. A culture change from an institutional environment to an Edenised community is an ongoing journey of growth and development. We will value your continued guidance as we travel along this road.
We would also like to thank Rae Brown, the CEO of Rand Aid, and the Boards of Rand Aid and the RAWDT for their belief in the Eden values. As a result of which funds were made available for the building project to upgrade the bathrooms and passages. The new facilities promote the dignity of our elders and are so much more conducive to good care practices.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Eden journey has yielded beautiful fruits in the form of positive feedback from elders, families, staff and volunteers. We look forward, as one care team, to continue creating a better life for all. The Ron Smith Care Centre will never again be just another old age home. We have committed to a person-centred community which is safe and secure, where each individual is known and has the opportunity to live a life worth living.
Address at the Eden Alternative Milestone One Celebration in November 2016 by Jill Jones, a resident of the Ron Smith Care Centre:
Good morning honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. What a great occasion this is. As residents we are so fortunate to be living here and experiencing the benefits of the Eden Alternative solution to make life for elders consequential and enjoyable.
One thing we have all experienced is that as we arrive, everyone is so friendly. Whether well known or stranger, there are friendly ‘Hellos’, accompanied by a smile from staff, carers and residents.
The caring environment is experienced from the beginning.
It is so important for the residents to have something significant to occupy their time. In this, the OT department is pivotal in providing such varied creative occupations to stimulate people and foster friendship links. A lady who sits next to me at lunch is a day visitor three times a week. She is alone at home and at first she was reluctant to come here when her daughter suggested it. Now she can’t wait for her weekly visits. She confided to me that she had never picked up a paintbrush in her life, but at the age of late 70s has discovered a new absorbing talent of fabric painting, opening a new window of interest. She enjoys the other activities and meeting new friends. It has been a very positive experience.
In-house residents feel the same where a previously untried skill has become absorbing and creative.
The home-like atmosphere here in the frail care centre is also very comforting to the residents. It is wonderful to be able to arrange our rooms with furniture and articles from home so we are surrounded by familiar things.
Important pictures on the walls and family photos make a world of difference to our lives.
The caring attitude of the Sisters in charge and the carers who are with us daily means a great deal. We are treated as individuals with different needs and wants, with a great deal of patience. Many of our sisters and carers should be sprouting angel wings or haloes as they go about their daily tasks and we can only be very grateful for them and say ‘Thank you’.
The older, or challenged, residents are treated with the same care and consideration, depending on their needs, with great tolerance and understanding.
Speaking of the older residents reminds me of the story of the great grandfather of 104 years old celebrating his birthday. One of his young family members asked him if he thought he would reach 105.
“Of course I will,” he replied. “Statistics show that very few people die between 104 and 105.”
Getting older often means that we need more gadgets to help us. Gadgets such as walking sticks, crutches, wheelchairs, glasses, hearing aids and false teeth.
A grandmother confided to me the other day that when her young grandson was visiting her he watched with absolute fascination as she took out her false teeth brushed them and then popped them back into her mouth. “Cool, Granny,” he said. “Now take off your arm.”
On a more serious note, the freedom we are given as individuals under the Eden Alternative is awesome.
Some of us decide to go to bed at 6.30pm, others at 10.30pm. Some prefer to get up at 5.30am others at 9am. It’s not a problem.
We are free during the day to do our own thing or go up to OT. There we are able to choose to join the organised activity or to do something else like puzzles or paint or watch a video or TV.
I have been free to establish my own pot garden on the patio in front of my room. This gives me enormous pleasure daily. I also fabric paint my own projects, dress make for myself, create greeting cards or do beading, just as I wish. When I fill pots with soil and plant out seedlings I get the feel of earth on my fingers and generally get covered in mud. It’s very fulfilling to be in touch with nature and the earth.
At first when I arrived I missed our two daughters who live in England and Canada, very much. I also missed our two cats. A few weeks later, after I mentioned this to one of the staff members in the office, Helen [Petrie, Complex Manager] came round the following day to ask ‘Would you like a kitten?’ Of course I jumped at the chance and soon Annie Cat came to live with me. She has turned out to be a very social cat, quite at home in the unit and visits up and down the passage. She frequently comes into the lounge and watches TV with us. So she gives pleasure not only to me but to others as well, and enjoys all the petting.
The yearly particular days and occasions are always made unique for us by the staff. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s days, Mandela Day, Women’s Day, Christmas Day are all special. A card, chocolate or whatever appears at our places at table, and a Christmas tree and decorations are all erected. It is lovely, and so like home.
In closing, on behalf of all the residents, I would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts all the staff and management for adopting the Eden Alternative so enthusiastically and working so hard to make it a reality. They have, and do, go out of their way to make the Ron Smith Care Centre a wonderful place in which to live. We are constantly thought about and cared for, our concerns are addressed, and I don’t think we could ever ask for more.
Thank you very, very much.