Keeping loneliness at bay at Thembalami

Thembalami Care Centre social worker Lara Hurwitz says that initiatives are in place to keep residents’ spirits high during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Loneliness, helplessness and boredom are a challenge in most facilities and this has been worsened as a result of the lockdown because family and friends cannot visit and the residents are not able to go out,” says Lara.

The deputy manager of the Rand Aid care centre, Elize Raath, has scheduled several additional activities to complement the existing programme offered by the occupational therapy department.

“This is helping to keep residents stimulated and occupied. In addition, we are helping residents keep in touch with their families via telephone and WhatsApp video calls.

“We have also arranged with a local Pick n Pay to place food and toiletry orders by email and they deliver for free, which allows residents to get what they need – plus a few treats – without having to venture off the property.

“It is important to maintain as much normality as possible and for the staff to remain positive so that the residents don’t feel too unsettled. Of course, this is not always easy and as with all people in lockdown, our residents sometimes get cabin fever. We are working hard to find create ways to engage our residents in meaningful activities,” says Lara.

A hit with residents is Elize’s story-time, when which she reads aloud to residents. “Elize is a real people’s person who is quick to smile, and these occasions are much enjoyed,” says Lara.

“The residents particularly love the tales from Classic Humorous Stories,” says Elize.

A walk around the care centre – which incorporates a dedicated wing for the Max Ordman Deaf Association (MODA) – shows residents knitting or crocheting, reading a good book, doing puzzles, playing a board game or chatting among themselves.

Organised activities include sing-alongs to old classics. “Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra are very popular,” says Elize.

Residents are invited to come to the large, sunny occupational therapy room and lounge for story-time and activities such as word searches, spot the differences, brainteasers and crossword puzzles. Often, Elize will be at hand to read a short story or tell a few jokes.

“Camaraderie and laughter characterise these gatherings,” says Thembalami manager Esme van der Walt. “A game of Rummikub is always on the go too.”

John Nel, an evangelist who ordinarily holds services at the care centre’s chapel, has been sending messages and short sermons to his congregants every Wednesday and Friday via email.

“Resident Brian Crosley regularly holds chair exercise sessions, which are a great way to get residents to move and stretch, which minimises aches and pains from stiffness,” says Elize.

Another activity that ticked all the boxes was a morning spent making flapjacks for all residents. Three teams comprised of staff members and residents worked from the care centre’s three kitchens, churning out hot fluffy flapjacks that were enjoyed with afternoon tea.

Lidia Elliott in the MODA kitchenette. She was one of a number of ladies who made flapjacks for all residents.

Elize Raath reads to residents scattered around the comfortable occupational therapy room.

Thembalami resident Aidan Muthukrishna enjoys the buzz in the occupational therapy room from the comfort of a snug chair.

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