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Old-age home manager 'feels blessed to be an essential worker'

Beverley Bell, a manager at an old-age home in Knysna, says regardless of the situation she finds herself in, she always has a positive attitude. Picture: Facebook

Beverley Bell, a manager at an old-age home in Knysna, says regardless of the situation she finds herself in, she always has a positive attitude. Picture: Facebook

Published Apr 1, 2020

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Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa had high praise this week for the efforts and commitment of essential workers during the lockdown, among them those who take care of the elderly.

Beverley Bell, a manager at an old-age home in Knysna, believes she is blessed to be in an essential service and regardless of the situation she finds herself in, always has a positive attitude. 

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The reality is, at the best of times, every day is a new day in an old-age home because you never know what to expect, she told the Cape Times on Wednesday.

On a personal level, a major sacrifice she has had to make is not seeing her 14-year-old son for the duration of the lockdown.

“It’s affected my family in that my son doesn’t stay with me. He stays with his dad and it’s just to protect the elderly and to protect him.”

Her job is clearly a labour of love in which remuneration is not a driving force, with laughter being the best medicine – since her favourite way of showing affection, through hugs, not being allowed during the lockdown.

“We are still working our normal hours and life goes on. We are very blessed to be in an essential service where we can come to work every day,” she said on Wednesday.

“We went into isolation before the actual lockdown announced by the president. We had already locked down our frail care and assisted living two weeks before that. 

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“Our other residents were also toning down their activities before the lockdown.

“For the residents not to be able to come and go as they please is a big issue. So we are doing all of their shopping for them and getting their meds for them, and anything we can do to alleviate their town time, we’re doing.

“With family not being allowed to visit, the only people who come and go are the staff. 

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“It’s not too much of a burden. We provide a lot of entertainment for them – we have music therapy, bingo, they can build puzzles, play rummy. 

“We just make sure they haven’t isolated themselves in their cottages and encourage them to come out. We just have to prep them and make sure they are happy and safe.

“I think they are scared like we all are about the coronavirus. Touch wood, no one has tested positive yet. 

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“Should somebody test positive, they would automatically go into isolation separate from all the other cottages and the sisters will take care of them from there.

“We have some of our residents who are very frail and don’t communicate.

“We also have a few demented patients and every day is a new day for us. You just don’t know what you’re going to get with that patient or that resident. We have to look at the bright side. I am a positive person and for me my cup is always full.

“There is nothing nicer than getting a hug from one of the residents, but  I am not allowed to hug them now. It’s all about keeping that social distance and that’s hard for people who are tactile and like to touch. Laughter is also a good medicine.”

She said the elderly at the home have a very realistic approach should their health deteriorate if they are diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“A lot of them have living wills and a lot of them don’t want to go on machines. The average age in my building area is 92, of which one of them is 102. 

“And the average age in my cottages is 88 and they all say why must I go on a respirator, I have lived my life? They have a very positive and realistic outlook on it. 

“Luckily we have an environment which is wonderful for the residents. We have a lovely garden they can still walk around in and there is a lot of interaction."

Her heart goes out to the majority of the elderly people in the country who don't have the luxury of being able to be cared for in an old-age home.

"At the moment, we can’t help other old-age homes or the elderly because we have to keep ourselves in check. It is a frightening situation."

Cape Times

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