Friday, 22 May 2020

Loved ones ‘zoom’ in for 90th birthday party

Ron Smith Care Centre resident Shelagh Hawes celebrated her 90th birthday surrounded by love and in the presence of her family, despite visitors not being allowed onto the Rand Aid property as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

Sister Leanie Bessinger made sure her birthday on May 19 was a memorable occasion by inviting her loved ones to join in via a Zoom meeting. The virtual presence of Shelagh’s children and grandchildren – some of whom live in the USA – made her day.

“They were all absolutely delighted to be able to see and talk to each other,” says Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager: Recreational Programmes. “Shelagh’s granddaughter Lynn later sent a word of thanks: ‘You have made a difference in our world. Thank you again’.”One of Shelagh’s sons, Patrick, sent this message by WhatsApp: ‘Very awesome pics of my mum’s birthday! Thanks for a wonderful party. You guys are fantastic!

“Messages, birthday greetings, pictures and videos continued to be received from her family for the rest of the day and she later had a video call with another relative who lives overseas,” says Debbie.

“Her Lakeside family, which is the wing on which she lives in the care centre, sang Happy Birthday to her, after which she blew out her birthday candles and two enormous cakes were served. The lovely box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates she received as a gift, however, was reserved as a special treat just for her!”  

“The care centre is making every effort to ensure its residents and their family members stay connected during the lockdown,” says Sr Leanie.

Sister Leanie Bessinger and Shelagh Hawes during a Zoom gathering with Shelagh’s loved ones on her 90th birthday.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Ron Smith Care Centre pioneers personalised care

Whoops of joy rang out when Ron Smith Care Centre (RSCC) became the first organisation in Africa to achieve Milestone 2 on the Eden Alternative® Registry.

Founded in America, the Eden Alternative is revolutionising the way in which elders are cared for. The core concept is about teaching us to see places where elders live as habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the frail and elderly. Eden Alternative thus sees aging as a continued stage of development and growth and not as a period of decline.

Four milestones have to be reached in order to fully master the Eden Alternative philosophy. RSCC began its Eden Alternative journey in 2012, when a presentation was made to the Rand Aid board. At the end of 2016, after a process of physical, cultural, organisational and personal transformation, the criteria for Milestone One was reached and the care centre became only the second in Africa to achieve Eden Registry membership.

In 2018, it achieved registry renewal, which is required every two years. Currently, only four other South African organisations have achieved Milestone One.

The awarding of Milestone Two happened at a video conference because of the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa. Taking part were Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa; Magda Pienaar, the Executive Director; Yolande Brand, Certified Eden Educator, and RSCC management and staff. The conference ended in jubilation when Rayne announced that the care centre had met all the criteria for Milestone Two.

“This is a momentous event,” said Rayne, referring to RSCC as an Eden Alternative pioneer.

“Not many other homes globally have sunk their teeth into the milestones the way RSCC has,” he said. “It has been remarkable to witness the growth over the years. I have huge gratitude for the wise leadership that comes from every one of you.”

He said that the Eden Alternative philosophy has filtered into the very fibre of Rand Aid.
Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division, thanked the Eden Alternative South Africa team for the ‘richness you have brought to us’.

“We have all experienced deep joy and fulfilment in doing things differently. We have seen the difference the Eden Alternative philosophy has made to the lives of our residents and to our lives; it has given us a new sense of purpose and has made our work so much more rewarding,” she said at the end of the meeting.

The Eden Alternative difference

“The Eden Alternative initiative is truly excellent for Rand Aid and very necessary to ensure we bring the highest level of care and wellbeing to our residents,” says Rand Aid CEO Peter Quinn. “I would like to thank each and every staff member at every job level and in every position, who collectively made an important contribution to ensuring our residents’ wellbeing. Each one is of equal importance and all are highly valued.”

Explaining the care centre’s success, Magda says that RSCC offers personalised care to their residents, which takes into account their holistic wellbeing and not just their physical care. “The care partners are aware of what holds meaning for individual residents, even in simple, everyday things.

“RSCC’s care partners are committed; they work well together as a team and value relationships. They give recognition and celebrate achievements,” says Magda.

She says she is inspired by the growth and development of individual employees over the years. RSCC acknowledges and empowers the contribution of all its employees, regardless of their level. “It is a privilege to work with this team of passionate individuals and to see the difference they make in the lives of elders and their families,” she adds.

Zabeth says the care centre’s Eden Alternative journey has been transformational. “Quality care has always been measured against objective criteria and standards that equate homes for older persons with hospitals or nursing homes, with a primary focus on nursing care.

“With such a narrow focus, it is easy to concentrate only on the requirements of a person’s illness, age or disability and to overlook the social, emotional, spiritual and growth needs of the person. Often, their personal needs, preferences and dreams are not considered. 

“The Eden Alternative philosophy has enabled us to see the person and not the patient. Each person who comes to live with us has a history, has memories, dreams, aspirations and a need to be acknowledged for who they are.

“Our home is now their home and we need to create a warm, loving and caring environment where each person can experience a life worth living. Our residents are not here to be treated and discharged; they are here to live in their new home.

“They must feel loved, secure, experience joy, feel they belong, must be able to participate in meaningful activities and make choices on what affects them most,” she says.

Thanks to Eden Alternative, RSCC has a more relaxed atmosphere, she says. “Families are free to visit any time; warm relationships between residents, families and staff prevail as well as a general spirit of optimism and hope. The care centre is a place where residents and staff can have fun, where life can be enjoyed and where achievements are celebrated and losses acknowledged and shared. It has become a human habitat,” says Zabeth.

Rand Aid runs a number of retirement villages and two care centres and although RSCC has pioneered Rand Aid’s Eden Alternative journey, the philosophy of people-centred care is being spread throughout the organisation.

For information on the Eden Alternative South Africa, please visit their website at More can be learnt about RSCC at

Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa with Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division at a ceremony in 2016 when Ron Smith Care Centre became the second organisation in Africa to become a member of Eden Alternative South Africa Registry. As a result of the coronavirus lockdown, a public celebration of the Milestone Two recognition could not be held.

 A new way of thinking:

Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager: Recreational Programmes, who is involved in driving RSCC’s Eden Alternative journey, says it has been a privilege to engage with residents and staff and to help them find meaning, joy and purpose in their lives.

“There is an increased awareness amongst our elders that even at this later stage in their lives, they can still contribute to their community and share a lifetime of experience, wisdom and knowledge. They can still be useful; they can still learn, grow and achieve. They can still have the capacity to appreciate beauty, simple pleasures, acts of kindness and their beautiful surroundings. There has been  increased gratitude for the loving care they receive and the connections they have made with each other and with their care partners.

“Training of staff has brought about the realisation that no matter what their position is in the organisation, they are known, recognised, affirmed and valued by Rand Aid. All levels of staff have an important role to play in creating well-being for all in the community. The staff on each wing continue to develop their own rituals, traditions, practices and experiences with their residents,” she says.

On a personal level, Debbie says she has experienced growth and change. “It has become second nature to apply the Eden Alternative principles, practices and domains of wellbeing, not only in my work life, but in my personal life as well.”

Care centre’s busy hands and open hearts

Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre launched its Hearts and Hands for the Homeless project during the coronavirus lockdown. The project gives residents something meaningful to occupy their time.

The initiative has seen residents and staff uniting to turn plastic bags into yarn (plarn) which will be used to crochet sleeping mats for the homeless.

“Our participants are pleased to have an opportunity to make a contribution towards improving the quality of life and wellbeing of another person,” says Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager: Recreational Programmes. “They have a focused sense of purpose in working on this meaningful project. It is also a good time to relax with a cup of tea and chat to fellow plarn-makers!

“As we need thousands of bags, we are appealing for donations of clean plastic bags (supermarket carrier bags or coloured rubbish bags), once the lockdown restrictions are eased. One bag, one person can start a wave of kindness.”

For further information, contact Debbie Christen at 010 534 6595.

 Work Group ... many hands make light work.

Jessie Pickard.

Rosina Pretorius.

Doreen Woodward.

Ems Horn.

The finished products... sleeping mats.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Nonagenarian is no stranger to live-altering global events

When Sylvia Lasarow turned 92 on April 14, 2020, it was in the middle of the national coronavirus lockdown and her loved ones were unable to be with her. However, Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre, where Sylvia lives, made sure that her birthday did not slip quietly by.

Although social distancing protocols had to be applied, a birthday tea was hosted for her.
Born in England, Sylvia has lived through a number of global events that altered life drastically, just as the coronavirus is doing. Most notable was World War II. She remembers gas mask drills being held daily while she was at school. Her family was evacuated from Plymouth where they lived – which was a major naval base – to the moors in Torquay to escape the bombings.

Sylvia – who lost husband Peter when he was just 43 – was a passionate Stroke Aid volunteer for 19 years. “I was also delighted to work with underprivileged children and children with learning disabilities at an early learning centre.”

Before moving to the care centre over four years ago, she lived at Rand Aid’s Inyoni Creek retirement village.

World War II shaped the life of Ron Smith Care Centre resident Sylvia Lasarow (92) and today, she is living through the coronavirus.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Keeping smiles in place during the coronavirus lockdown

Rand Aid Association’s Ron Smith Care Centre is doing everything it can during the national coronavirus lockdown to ensure that its residents remained happy and engaged in meaningful activities.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Bella becomes nonagenarian during COVID-19 lockdown

Bella Tworetzky, a resident of Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre, turned 90 years old on April 9, 2020 – smack bang in the middle of South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown.

Although none of her family members were able to wish her in person on the day, the staff on the River Lodge 3 wing where Bella lives did all they could to make her day special.
Cake, juice, a red rose and birthday card decorated the table when staff members gathered to wish her happy birthday.

Photos taken on the day were sent to Bella’s family members, so they could feel included.

Daughter Nadine responded:

Thank you so much.

We are so overwhelmed by the amazing care, concern and goodwill that is being shown to our precious mom.

We really salute all your efforts and the gracious warmth and care shown to our mom, albeit we are new arrivals.

Thank you one and all

May you all merit to continue in the wonderful work you so selflessly do.

As soon as lockdown is over, we shall come and thank you all in person

Best wishes

Nadine Kramer and Eve Samson and families.

No birthday left uncelebrated during the lockdown

Birthday celebrant Jill Jones.

Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre is ensuring that those residents who celebrate a birthday during lockdown still feel special on their big day. Resident Jill Jones turned 77 on April 6, 2020.  

“Sister Gwen Coutinho bought a cake, we lit some birthday candles and the staff gathered round in her room to sing happy birthday,” says Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager: Recreational Programmes. To make Jill’s loved ones feel included – even though they were unable to be there in person – photos of the celebration were emailed to daughters Lynley, who lives in England, and Carolyn who lives in Canada, as well as to Jill’s brother, John, who lives in Durban.

Lynley responded:

Hello Debbie

Thank you for the care you and all the teams at Rand Aid give to Jillie.
The photos are lovely - very heart-warming to see them.

Best wishes to all for a safe week.