Rand Aid’s Eden Alternative journey of transformation

While Ron Smith Care Centre is pioneering Rand Aid Association’s Eden Alternative journey, another care centre and four retirement villages run by the NPO are also working to achieve Eden Alternative registration.

The American-founded organisation aims to change the culture of long-term care organisations by moving away from the departmentalised, task-orientation institutional model. It encourages organisations that care for elders to create an environment that fosters a more meaningful life for their elders.

Ron Smith Care Centre became the second organisation in South Africa to achieve Eden Alternative Milestone One – and consequently its Eden Alternative registration – at the end of 2016 and hopes to reach its second milestone this year.

Meanwhile, Rand Aid’s Thembalami Care Centre and Inyoni Creek, Thornhill Manor, Elphin Lodge and Tarentaal retirement villages are all working towards achieving their Milestone One Eden Alternative registration.

Training has been taking place at all complexes and processes are in place to allow the sharing of information and ideas between villages, between staff members and between residents and staff and staff and management.

“After undergoing Eden Alternative training courses, residents and members of the Rand Aid team say they feel inspired to change the way they approach their work. They come back with fresh ideas and the desire to spread the Eden Alternative message to their colleagues and peers,” says Rand Aid’s Zabeth Zühlsdorff, who is the GM: Services and Advance Division.

Tammy Neilson, the manager of Tarentaal, says staff members apply the Eden Alternative principles in their daily interaction with residents.

Both Tammy and her deputy manager, Laetitia Goosen, have attended the three-day Eden Associate course. They also attended the Person-centred Care and Care Plans course, while members of the village’s residents committee attended the Open Hearts and Open Minds course.

These courses are attended by representative from all Rand Aid complexes and they not only target managers but all levels of staff because Eden Alternative believes that changes need to start at the bottom and filter up.

Tammy says that most residents have completed a form that gives other residents, staff and management an idea of who they are, what they like and what they dislike. “The purpose is to get to know the residents better and to identify their hobbies, skills and needs,” she says.

“We intend starting a Care Committee to reach out to new residents and to be involved in supporting those residents who have perhaps not properly integrated into village life,” she says.

At Thembalami, managers and the nursing staff have attended general Eden Alternative training and in March, 16 staff members were identified to attend the three-day Eden Associate course. Participants ranged from admin personnel to nursing staff, members of the therapy team and gardeners.

Magda Pienaar from Eden Alternative South Africa has spent time at the care centre, guiding its journey towards achieving Milestone One, which will see Thembalami join Ron Smith Care Centre on the Eden Alternative registry.

“Learning circles have been held with some of the residents and staff of Thembalami to ensure that everyone understands what we are working towards and plays an active role in our transformation journey,” says Thembalami manager Elize Raath.

Esme Erasmus, the manager of Thornhill Manor, became an Eden Associate in September 2015, after completing the necessary training. Deputy manager Jackie Scott received her certificate in November 2018, while Sr Theresa Beyers followed in January 2019.

“All staff – from management to nursing, reception, maintenance and a driver – have had training. In addition, a staff and resident core group, consisting of admin staff, nursing, security, domestic, garden and maintenance personnel, has been established. This group has been responsible for starting a care-worker programme, gratitude wall, an occupational therapy programme run by a resident and has hosted inter-village soccer games in which staff members play Servest team members,” says Jackie, explaining that Servest is contracted to maintain Rand Aid’s gardens.

“We are developing a better and extended welcome programme for new residents which will, among other things, explains our Eden Alternative journey.

“The Eden Alternative philosophy has touched us all personally and this filters into our lives and work environment on a daily basis,” says Jackie.

Last year, Inyoni Creek staff members and selected residents attended their first Eden Alternative training programme.

Manager Jenny Tonkin explains that the village has an existing Care Committee that focuses on birthdays and visiting those who are not well. “We have also implemented our Red Shirt programme in which we have asked each committee member to visit a resident that they do not know and spend time with them getting to know them.

“The Eden Alternative is very much at the forefront of all we do. We have become more aware of elders since our course and try to apply the person-centred philosophy in every aspect of our work, not only with residents but with our staff as well,” says Jenny.

Rand Aid’s large security team has not been left behind. When residents, staff members and visitors arrive at any of the complexes, they must pass through the security checkpoint at the entrance gates.

The security personnel thus have a big impact on people’s first impressions of Rand Aid.

Nelson Raliphada is the head of security. He underwent his first Eden Alternative training in 2016 and was pleased when another seven of his team members had the opportunity to attend the course in February this year.

Jonas Mbungele and Johannes Mojela were among the course delegates.

Johannes says he now is even more aware of the importance of building up relationships with residents and their visitors. “We know that a welcoming smile, a friendly word and politeness make the day of those passing through our gates just a little better.”

Jonas adds that he does what he can to help residents and to smooth their path.

“We have gained valuable insights into what the residents may be feeling and it helps us be more empathetic,” says Nelson.

“The elders are not staying at our workplace, we are working at their homes,” says Jonas.

Rand Aid staff members who have undergone Eden Alternative training – no matter their employment level – are responsible for sharing their knowledge with their colleagues.

Jonas Mbungele, Nelson Raliphada (head of security) and Johannes Mojela are part of Rand Aid’s large security team and are ready to smooth the way of people entering Rand Aid properties.

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