Saturday, 26 March 2016

Young teen spoils Ron Smith Care Centre residents

Moira Dowds, who resides at Rand Aid’s Tarentaal retirement village and who has been a long-time volunteer at the Ron Smith Care Centre, has a wonderful 13-year-old great granddaughter named Sharn Drysdale, who lives in Alberton. 

One day, on a recent visit to her great grandmother, Sharn asked, “What happens with all the grannies at the frail care centre over Easter? Do you think that maybe some of them don’t have any family or friends to come visit and bring them treats?”

When Moira replied that she thought that some might not, Sharn decided to take some of her birthday money and buy Easter chocolates for some of the residents. She made up 25 little gift packages, complete with a loving Easter message contained in each one and asked her great grandmother to deliver them for her.

On March 24, the day before Good Friday, Moira came to Ron Smith Care Centre and with Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager Recreational Programmes, dished out the Easter treats to residents in River Lodge 1. They were absolutely delighted to be remembered in this way and touched by this young lady’s kindness and caring heart. 

 Yvonne van Belkum, when asked if she enjoyed eating the chocolate!

Volunteer Moira Dowds giving Dorothy de Bruyn an Easter treat from her great granddaughter Sharn Drysdale.

Bible group puts words into action at Ron Smith Care Centre

After a recent session by one of the Bible Study groups at the God First Church in Fourways, Jane Molony and others in the group decided that they would like to show a little kindness and care to some of the elderly folk in the community. 

After phoning around to several old age and care homes in the area to see what would be possible, they were rather discouraged by the lack of interest. Jane says, however, that Rand Aid was a different story. She and her group were delighted to be given the opportunity to provide an Easter Tea for the residents in Lakeside at Ron Smith Care Centre, and on Wednesday, March 23, they came bearing scones with jam and cream, lamingtons and Easter eggs for residents and staff in Lakeside.

One of the group brought along her young son Mason and baby daughter Zoe, much to the delight of many residents. Mason particularly enjoyed dishing out the Easter eggs to all the residents, whilst Zoe was an instant hit with residents and staff alike.
The good news is that after this first visit where they felt so welcomed, the group (which has 12 members) would like to start making monthly visits to Ron Smith Care Centre and to really start getting to know the residents better.

The group’s visit was such a nice surprise for the Lakeside residents – they weren’t expecting this Wednesday morning treat and they were very appreciative of the kindness shown by these strangers’ who will hopefully become friends in the future.

Peter Barker (right) shares a laugh with Jane Molony, organiser of the Easter tea and treats for Lakeside residents.

 Little Mason Brims gives Joyce Dubb an Easter egg, with Carer Audrey looking on.

Linda Brims, Peter Barker, Jane Molony, Mason Brims, Sister Tando Ncube, Francelle and Zoe Brims.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Volunteers learn about dementia

 A brand new group of volunteers began their volunteer work at Rand Aid-run Ron Smith Care Centre at the beginning of the year. 

They were invited to attend an Orientation and Training Session on Wednesday, March 16, where they were given an introduction to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, by Senior Occupational Therapist, Sylvia Birkhead.  Around 28 volunteers, old and new, attended the training event.

“We felt that it was necessary to introduce our new volunteers to dementia, and to give them a basic understanding of the disease in order to assist them with their ability to work with, engage, communicate and connect with our residents, many of whom have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia,” explains Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager Recreational Programmes and Volunteer Co-ordinator for Ron Smith Care Centre.

“Although not all volunteers work directly in River Lodge 3, our special dementia wing, they will at some stage most likely encounter residents who are mildly or moderately affected by Alzheimer’s, and so the more knowledge and understanding they have about the disease, the more empowered they will be to make a valuable contribution to the quality of life of our residents, and to discover what would bring them meaning and joy.”

Sylvia’s presentation included an explanation of the types and stages of dementia and the fact that whatever form it takes, there is cognitive impairment which usually affects the person’s memory, ability to communicate and ability to reason or make decisions.  As the disease progresses, mood and behaviour can be affected, as well as a decline in skills and abilities of everyday life. 

So with increasing loss of function, the person gradually loses independence and requires more care and assistance. She went on to explain the difference between normal ageing and dementia, and presented guidelines on how to talk to a person living with dementia, and especially how to communicate compassionately with a person who has memory impairment. 

She also spoke about the importance of planning activities for people living with dementia, and how volunteers can play a significant role in implementing sensory stimulation-type activities for each individual with whom they engage.  Sylvia said, “It is a fallacy that persons affected by dementia are not able to do anything. The memory may go, but the feelings are still there. We need to learn how to tap into what is there within the person and to try and connect with what brings him/her joy and meaning.”

To quote Rayne Stroebel, Regional Co-ordinator of Eden Alternative South Africa, as he shared an experience he had with the Elders of a Care Home: “I cannot quite figure out why the past six days have moved me so deeply. The only thing I can think of is that I have learnt what it means to be truly present. And in that presence my soul was profoundly touched. I became one with the deepest soul of every resident.  I connected with them and through them, with the divine in each of them. I realised and felt it deeply in my being that dementia is a disease that attacks the brain and not the soul… if you are prepared to make yourself vulnerable; to be open to seeing the person, and not the disease and to remain in that presence, something will change forever.”

 Some of the newly-inducted volunteers at Ron Smith Care Centre, who attended the Volunteer Training Session on dementia: Hazel Spearpoint (Hazel, now retired, used to be the charge sister who ran one of the care centre’s wings), Caroline Booysen, Priscilla Bowden, Carroll Prigge and Noelene Puntis.

Come and sit awhile

A lovely new hospitality, relaxation and activity area for residents has been set up in the outdoor section between Woodlands and Cedar Park. Bright new patio furniture enhances the area under the Cedar Park awning and under the two lapas further along, making this a more functional and inviting location for hosting outdoor teas, picnics, social gatherings and other activities.

Residents and staff enjoy the lovely new outdoor area.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Care centre branches out with baobab tree on its Eden Alternative journey

A 1.5 metre wire baobab tree stands tall in the grounds of Ron Smith Care Centre.
The Rand Aid Association-run care centre has been undergoing considerable rejuvenation as it moves towards full Eden Alternative accreditation, which will see it acknowledged as part of a group of international organisations that are adopting a new, personalised approach to people care. Known as the ‘tree of life’, the baobab tree was incorporating into the logo of Eden Alternative South Africa when the international philosophy was introduced to South Africa in 2011.
The tree is also called the ‘upside down’ tree in the African culture because when bare of leaves, the spreading branches of the baobab look like roots sticking up into the air, as if it had been planted upside-down. If one aligns this thinking with the Eden Principles, it symbolises that person-directed care stems from and is driven by the needs of the residents as opposed to the usual hierarchy with the leaders at the top dictating downwards. (Principle 8 - Decision making is closer to the resident.)
According to, a baobab tree can create its own ecosystem, supporting the life of countless creatures, from the largest of mammals to the thousands of tiny creatures scurrying in and out of its crevices. Birds nest in its branches; baboons devour the fruit; bush babies and fruit bats drink the nectar and pollinate the flowers.
The nurturing associated with this venerable tree is well aligned with Ron Smith’s Eden Alternative journey, demonstrating the 160-bed facility’s growth in recent years in providing a loving, supporting and non-institutional new home for its residents.
The wire baobab will bear the care centre’s Vision and Mission statements to allow residents, their family members and staff members to give their input prior to the formal adopting of these core statements. Thereafter, it will be used as a ‘Wish’ and ‘Gratitude’ tree.
For further information, call 882 4120.

Spur-of-the-moment braai

Enjoying summer’s end … River Lodge One threw a spontaneous braai on Sunday, February 28. Organised by Sr Leanie Bessinger for the residents and staff members, it gave everyone a chance to enjoy an outdoor meal, which made a refreshing change from the dining hall and evoked memories of many a Sunday family braai at home.

Tea, cake and lashings of love

The daughter of resident Lorraine Lowdon sweetened up Valentine’s Day for the residents of River Lodge One. Although Ron Smith Care Centre had a formal Valentine’s event, the fun tea party hosted on the Sunday was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and ensured that residents got the same loving feeling they would have when they still lived in their own homes.


Do you know how to make paper by hand?  Did you know that one of the ingredients for making paper is…………..elephant dung? 
On the afternoon of Friday, 19th February, there was a buzz of excitement in the OT Activity Centre at Ron Smith Care Centre as 20 Care Centre staff donned their aprons and prepared to learn the art of making paper from scratch.
 Sylvia Birkhead, Senior Occupational Therapist, presented this workshop to care workers, domestic, nursing, OT and management staff, as an Eden Alternative team building activity, designed to link certain Eden principles with the actual art of papermaking.   Sylvia said that the idea was to use the Eden concepts and images of nature, trees, gardens and planting of seeds for growth, to introduce this activity which involves the use of natural materials to create a product totally made from nature.  She made a small card from homemade paper into which the seed of a tree was embedded, for each participant to plant in soil to remind them of the origins of paper, and to give them the opportunity of growing and nurturing their own tree which symbolises the growth they have promoted when nurturing the residents.
The paper-making process began by creating pulp mixtures from recycled/shredded paper, plant fibres such as mealie skins, bulrushes, dandelions, elephant dung (!) and water.  Batches of differently coloured paper were made by adding onion skins, tea leaves, dyes or coloured serviettes to the pulp mixtures. 
The pulp was then added to large tubs of water, into which additional material, plant and other fibres were added, before papermaking frames were dipped in and pulled up.
The water then drained off to leave a layer of pulp on the frames, and it is this pulp which eventually transformed into a sheet of paper!  The layer of pulp was inverted onto a sheet of Vilene fabric and the frame was lifted to reveal a sheet of paper which was then ironed dry and flat. 
What a magical moment it was for each staff person, when a beautiful piece of handmade paper was revealed from the messy mixture of pulp! The natural transformation process from something that is seemingly unattractive and useless into something beautiful and useful is quite amazing to behold and the staff were very proud of the fact that they achieved this with their own hands!
Besides learning a brand new skill, the staff had a lot of fun and enjoyed the spontaneous nature of the activity.  Sylvia says that the objective of the workshop was “to move the staff one step further along on their Eden journey, by reinforcing the Eden concepts of nature, nurturing, and working together on a fun activity that has no limits or rules and which brings people back to nature.” 

 'Eewww….Elephant dung!'

Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid’s GM: Services and Advance Division (right) who provided the dung!

Look at the fun we had: