Whoops of joy rang out when Ron Smith Care Centre (RSCC) became the first organisation in Africa to achieve Milestone 2 on the Eden Alternative® Registry.
Founded in America, the Eden Alternative is revolutionising the way in which elders are cared for. The core concept is about teaching us to see places where elders live as habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the frail and elderly. Eden Alternative thus sees aging as a continued stage of development and growth and not as a period of decline.
Four milestones have to be reached in order to fully master the Eden Alternative philosophy. RSCC began its Eden Alternative journey in 2012, when a presentation was made to the Rand Aid board. At the end of 2016, after a process of physical, cultural, organisational and personal transformation, the criteria for Milestone One was reached and the care centre became only the second in Africa to achieve Eden Registry membership.
In 2018, it achieved registry renewal, which is required every two years. Currently, only four other South African organisations have achieved Milestone One.
The awarding of Milestone Two happened at a video conference because of the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa. Taking part were Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa; Magda Pienaar, the Executive Director; Yolande Brand, Certified Eden Educator, and RSCC management and staff. The conference ended in jubilation when Rayne announced that the care centre had met all the criteria for Milestone Two.
“This is a momentous event,” said Rayne, referring to RSCC as an Eden Alternative pioneer.
“Not many other homes globally have sunk their teeth into the milestones the way RSCC has,” he said. “It has been remarkable to witness the growth over the years. I have huge gratitude for the wise leadership that comes from every one of you.”
He said that the Eden Alternative philosophy has filtered into the very fibre of Rand Aid.
Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division, thanked the Eden Alternative South Africa team for the ‘richness you have brought to us’.
“We have all experienced deep joy and fulfilment in doing things differently. We have seen the difference the Eden Alternative philosophy has made to the lives of our residents and to our lives; it has given us a new sense of purpose and has made our work so much more rewarding,” she said at the end of the meeting.
The Eden Alternative difference
“The Eden Alternative initiative is truly excellent for Rand Aid and very necessary to ensure we bring the highest level of care and wellbeing to our residents,” says Rand Aid CEO Peter Quinn. “I would like to thank each and every staff member at every job level and in every position, who collectively made an important contribution to ensuring our residents’ wellbeing. Each one is of equal importance and all are highly valued.”
Explaining the care centre’s success, Magda says that RSCC offers personalised care to their residents, which takes into account their holistic wellbeing and not just their physical care. “The care partners are aware of what holds meaning for individual residents, even in simple, everyday things.
“RSCC’s care partners are committed; they work well together as a team and value relationships. They give recognition and celebrate achievements,” says Magda.
She says she is inspired by the growth and development of individual employees over the years. RSCC acknowledges and empowers the contribution of all its employees, regardless of their level. “It is a privilege to work with this team of passionate individuals and to see the difference they make in the lives of elders and their families,” she adds.
Zabeth says the care centre’s Eden Alternative journey has been transformational. “Quality care has always been measured against objective criteria and standards that equate homes for older persons with hospitals or nursing homes, with a primary focus on nursing care.
“With such a narrow focus, it is easy to concentrate only on the requirements of a person’s illness, age or disability and to overlook the social, emotional, spiritual and growth needs of the person. Often, their personal needs, preferences and dreams are not considered.
“The Eden Alternative philosophy has enabled us to see the person and not the patient. Each person who comes to live with us has a history, has memories, dreams, aspirations and a need to be acknowledged for who they are.
“Our home is now their home and we need to create a warm, loving and caring environment where each person can experience a life worth living. Our residents are not here to be treated and discharged; they are here to live in their new home.
“They must feel loved, secure, experience joy, feel they belong, must be able to participate in meaningful activities and make choices on what affects them most,” she says.
Thanks to Eden Alternative, RSCC has a more relaxed atmosphere, she says. “Families are free to visit any time; warm relationships between residents, families and staff prevail as well as a general spirit of optimism and hope. The care centre is a place where residents and staff can have fun, where life can be enjoyed and where achievements are celebrated and losses acknowledged and shared. It has become a human habitat,” says Zabeth.
Rand Aid runs a number of retirement villages and two care centres and although RSCC has pioneered Rand Aid’s Eden Alternative journey, the philosophy of people-centred care is being spread throughout the organisation.
Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative Regional Co-ordinator: South Africa with Zabeth Zühlsdorff, Rand Aid GM: Services and Advance Division at a ceremony in 2016 when Ron Smith Care Centre became the second organisation in Africa to become a member of Eden Alternative South Africa Registry. As a result of the coronavirus lockdown, a public celebration of the Milestone Two recognition could not be held.
A new perspective:
Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s Manager: Recreational Programmes, who is involved in driving RSCC’s Eden Alternative journey, says it has been a privilege to engage with residents and staff and to help them find meaning, joy and purpose in their lives.
“There is an increased awareness amongst our elders that even at this later stage in their lives, they can still contribute to their community and share a lifetime of experience, wisdom and knowledge. They can still be useful; they can still learn, grow and achieve. They can still have the capacity to appreciate beauty, simple pleasures, acts of kindness and their beautiful surroundings. There has been increased gratitude for the loving care they receive and the connections they have made with each other and with their care partners.
“Training of staff has brought about the realisation that no matter what their position is in the organisation, they are known, recognised, affirmed and valued by Rand Aid. All levels of staff have an important role to play in creating well-being for all in the community. The staff on each wing continue to develop their own rituals, traditions, practices and experiences with their residents,” she says.
On a personal level, Debbie says she has experienced growth and change. “It has become second nature to apply the Eden Alternative principles, practices and domains of wellbeing, not only in my work life, but in my personal life as well.”