When professional nurse Thili Sibiya joined Ron Smith Care Centre’s nursing team two years ago, she found herself in almost alien surroundings, despite her years of experience in caring for elders.
The approach to care was vastly different to what she was used to.
“My previous experiences were of institutional-type care. Residents lived a very regimented, ordered life, with little personal choice on when and how they would do things. Ron Smith Care Centre works very differently, however. Here, people are at the centre of everything. If a resident fancies a morning in bed, he or she may do so without forfeiting breakfast. Rather, they will be able to eat when they are up and ready,” she says.
“Ron Smith Care Centre is a wonderful community with strong trust relationships. Family members or residents need not go through a central person when they have an issue they wish to raise; instead, they can approach any staff member. It is an open, friendly environment.”
The difference in approach is thanks to the Eden Alternative philosophy that is based on the core belief that ageing is a continued stage of development and growth, rather than a period of decline. It seeks to position places where the elderly live as habitats for humans rather than facilities for the frail, and it supports the creation of communities which help eliminate the plagues of loneliness, boredom and helplessness.
In 2016, Ron Smith Care Centre, which is run by NPO Rand Aid, became the first organisation in Gauteng, and only the second in Africa, to become members of the Eden Alternative South Africa registry.
While the Eden Alternative philosophy is all about making the lives of elders richer, it does so by ensuring buy-in from the residents themselves, family members and staff members at all levels. As care partners, staff members need to be empowered, involved and feel valued.
Sr Thili has found an openness and lightness in her working environment over the past two years and has not only given thanks for being part of a forward-thinking care centre, but in fact actively helped promote Eden Alternative values by organised a bonding weekend away for her and a few other carers.
She felt the need to get to know her colleagues better in a relaxed environment. Durban, with its buzz and beaches, provided the perfect backdrop and the Rand Aid group – all ladies from the Riverlodge 1 wing – enjoyed a wonderful, self-funded weekend away in July.
Some of the ladies had never before been to the ocean while Sr Thili herself was last there when she was in primary school. The trip, she says, was a talking point not only for those who went, but the residents too. “Everyone was excited for us and wanted to hear all about it when we were back.”
“When we get busy, it is hard to prioritise staff morale, but Sr Thili took the initiative to create a wonderful platform for carers to recharge and reach out. This outing opened the way for better communication between them which will positively impact on their happiness and as a consequence, the happiness of residents,” says Matron Avril Maltman, Rand Aid’s senior nursing manager.
“We returned to work feeling more energised and more open to effective communication,” says Sr Thili.
Thili Sibiya, Pam Martins, Juliet Malatjie, Maserame Moilwa and Prudence Sengoeneng bond at the seaside.