Happy, healthy and well-balanced residents who live full, productive and meaningful lives is at the heart of Rand Aid Association’s approach to the care of elder persons.
The non-profit organisation runs four retirement villages and two care centres in and around Lyndhurst and Modderfontein and whilst each village has a management team and a village sister dedicated to the care of residents, and social workers and occupational therapists have been components of the various centres, Rand Aid realised in 2017 that more was needed.
A new full-time position was created and professional social worker Sue Prior – who has a Honours in Psychology degree – was hired as Rand Aid’s first Community Care Co-ordinator. It is her job to co-ordinate the follow-up of any issues that may affect the quality of life and general well-being of residents in the retirement villages.
The new post was aligned with Rand Aid’s Eden Alternative journey, which saw its Ron Smith Care Centre becoming the second place in Africa to be registered on the international Eden Alternative registry.
Eden Alternative promotes a paradigm shift in the care of elders. It sees aging as a continued stage of development and growth rather than a period of decline and emphasises person-centred care instead of the traditional medical model.
Rand Aid’s new strategic plan, adopted in October 2018, made provision for the appointment of an additional two social workers to ensure that an entirely holistic intervention is offered to all residents at what is a complex stage of their lives.
She explains that with over 1 300 residents in Rand Aid’s villages and care centres, additional social workers became a necessity.
In February, Debbie Beech was recruited and a month later, Ulricka Beukman joined the team.
Sue explains that the tremendous changes brought about by retirement and downsizing often bring with them a sense of loss and disruption. It is the mandate of her team to address the impact thereof for all those affected.
She explains that improved psycho-social care – which acknowledges the influences of social factors on an individual’s mental health and behaviour – enhances the quality of life and improves productivity and well-being of elders.
“The same principles that allow us to thrive in our daily work lives can also help us to thrive in retirement,” she says.
She says her team’s job includes identifying areas of risk and concern and providing residents with help in coping with those life issues that arise as a result of changes in health and cognitive capacity.
Residents in need of psycho-social interventions are identified by the village managers and sisters, who then make a referral to Sue. “We then assess the resident’s physical, emotional and cognitive risks and work with the resident and his or her family members wherever possible, alongside the multi-disciplinary team members, to implement support, through intervention and identification of additional resources for future care. The objective of this strategy is to minimise risk aspects and prevent potential crises,” says Sue.
Debbie says her time at Rand Aid has emphasised the warmth and friendliness that exists in the Rand Aid family.
“Everyone is happy and settled – they work together for the good of the residents, who are always put first,” she says.
Sue explains that the social workers’ goal is to interact closely with all residents so that should a crisis occur, the resident is comfortable with the social worker. “This take a lot of stress out of crisis management,” she says.
“Residents are familiar with us already in their homes and social spaces as part of the team managing the care within the community. This builds trust and creates a relationship in which the resident will be more comfortable in reaching out to us in times of need,” she says. “The overall goal is maximising quality of life and safeguard the independence of our residents in their own homes for as long as possible.”
Ulricka says she is very inspired by Rand Aid’s Eden Alternative commitment because it reinforces the social work philosophy and creates the perfect environment for her, Debbie and Sue to optimally performs their jobs.
Sue Prior, Rand Aid’s Community Care Co-Ordinator (right), with newly-appointed social workers Ulricka Beukman and Debbie Beech.