What Gauteng's old age homes are doing to protect the elderly from the coronavirus
Safety protocols at these facilities range from standard sanitary stations to a ban on visitors.
These efforts to keep senior citizens, who are among the most vulnerable to the pandemic, in good health, apply to staff, contractors, people in frail care and even those who are more independent and live in their own homes on the premises.
Tuiste vir Bejaardes in Nigel is on full lockdown.
Manager Pieter Smit said following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of Covid-19 as a national State of Disaster, it had been decided to restrict all visitors from entering the premises.
He said mass gatherings for customary activities such as prayer meetings had also been banned for the 73 senior citizens and their weekly travels into town temporarily cancelled.
These measures are also in place at Emmanuel Old Age Home in Krugersdorp, where visitation is prohibited for at least the next 30 days.
“From this week, none of our senior residents are allowed to leave premises unless they have to do so for medical reasons,” said head of administration Daniel von Weilligh.
He said they had a buyer who would do all the residents’ shopping on their behalf, and that only staff and their driver were currently allowed onto the premises.
“Their temperatures are all taken and they are sanitised before they can enter and we also closed off all other entrances and we are now only using the main gate to get in and out.”
He added that their senior citizens were also not allowed to eat and socialise or share any dishes.
“Meals are no longer eaten in dining halls in a collective group and are now taken to individual rooms and they are all using their own utensils.”
Meanwhile, at Marian House Boksburg, nursing sister Rebecca Malefetse said the elderly residents were still allowed visitors as this was a small facility, but she insisted that they kept a close eye on their surroundings.
“We had a cleaner who had a sore throat and she was immediately sent home to get medical attention before she will be allowed back,” said Malefetse.
They have also taken several precautions which includes regular hand washing and sanitising all surfaces several times a day.
At the Friendship Haven Old Age Home in Randfontein, senior citizens are also still allowed visitors, but those who enter the premises have to fill out a form and state whether they have travelled internationally recently.
“We are looking to ban visitation in the near future and all those who enter our premises have to sanitise before, during and after their visits,” said chief operating officer Sister Helea Eilers.
While their residents were still eating together in a dining hall, the facility was practising social distancing by increasing the gap between them when they were in communal areas.
Eilers added they would soon meet with officials from the regional health department and would most likely ramp up their prevention measures.
While all the old age homes The Saturday Star spoke to admitted that their senior citizens were anxious about the pandemic and were aware that they were at-risk, they appreciated the extra efforts being made to keep them safe.
“Morale is encouragingly high and everyone is doing their part, there is no crazy panic at the moment,” said Eilers.
Naomi van der Westhuizen at the Johannesburg Coronation Foundation in South Rand said it was difficult for their 380 residents to practise social distancing or be in isolation but they were coping in the challenging circumstances.
“They are all a friendly bunch and they are struggling with the no hugging, or cheek kissing rule but they are all doing what they can.”
General worker Sibel Khumalo at the Crown Gardens Retirement Centre in the south of Johannesburg admitted their residents and staff were worried about the pandemic but they were trying to do what they could and remain calm.
“Communication is very important and we are constantly telling everyone here what they need to do to stay calm and not panic.”
The Association for the Aged (Tafta) said they had no confirmed elderly coronavirus cases but had communicated precautionary measures to ensure those senior citizens who had travelled overseas recently were put in self-isolation.
“While we are very aware of the widespread of the virus and the implications thereof, we are trying to ensure that elders remain calm and we have supportive measures in place if we are affected.”