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Registered Home: Reflecting on our first year

Ron Smith Care Centre joined the Eden Register in September 2017. We ask them to reflect on this first year of being an Eden Registered Home and here is what they shared with us.

ZABETH Zuhlsdorff is the General Manager of Services and Advance Division of Rand Aid. She has been a driving force behind establishing The Eden Alternative philosophy not just in Ron Smith Care Centre, but throughout the other Rand Aid communities.

Any changes in your personal work life since starting on the journey?  It is much more rewarding to work goal orientated and to be conscious of the impact of small changes in the lives of elders or staff. Being aware of the principles and philosophy of the Eden Alternative has given  more purpose to my work life. However, I have also become more aware of the need to slow down and to give Elders time and the opportunity to have a say. To always ask if the Elders are on board, have we involved them sufficiently. In our fast paced work lives this is challenging and easy to forget.

What changes have you seen in the lives of the Elders? As practices changed, it appears as if our Elders have become more involved and that there is much more interaction between staff and Elders. Elders are encouraged to express their views, likes and dislikes and can influence the way they live or spend their day. Routines have become more relaxed, and Elders are not restricted by task driven staff actions. All in all, the Care Centre projects a happy atmosphere and there is a great demand for the service – people comment on a good feeling when they come to visit.

Have there been any changes in how some family members respond? It is rewarding to receive oral and written feedback from families, noticing the changes and commenting positively on them. A number of our existing or past families have referred other families to us, in search of care. At the same time, families being aware of our goals, hold us to high standards and will point out actions or events or practices not in line with their perceptions of the Eden Alternative.

Have you noted any changes in the way employees interact / engage? I have in particular noticed greater interaction between staff and Elders – meaningful relationships being developed. This was most evident when a carer passed away unexpectedly. The way Elders mourned her death and described what she meant to them was moving – she had touched their lives deeply. I have also noticed greater openness between staff of all levels or disciplines – discussing ways to make a difference and learning from each other.

Can you identify the value of the process / content of aspects and plans stemming from Path to Mastery Milestone 1?  We took a very long time to achieve Milestone 1 and was worried about this until we truly realized that the Eden Alternative is a journey and that the process is ongoing. Milestone 1 is a beginning and proof of our commitment. However, it does not mean that we have arrived!  Every day on this journey requires us to consciously think about the way we work, talk, respond, plan and implement  – it is learning to measure what we do and how we do it against the principles of the Eden Alternative, always striving to grow towards our Vision. It will take time for these principles to become so entrenched that we don’t have to think about it. The plans we have developed give guidance along the journey, enable us to take stock and focus. It is also great when a plan is finally  implemented, such as the recent in-sourcing of staff.

Slowly but surely we are making a difference!

VIVIAN Mphaso is the kitchen manager and shared the following regarding this first year.

  • I am free to share my opinions.
  • I have noticed that the changes we made inspired the residents.  We have put back meaning into their lives.
  • Yes, there are some changes in some family members because I see more of them coming to the coffee shop to have food with their families and friends and they also have braais at the lapa.
  • Employees are now involved by participating in some events and interacting with the residents.
  • The value of education should be recognized.  Leaders must educate employees so that the process will keep on going. It is important to develop a plan to ensure that the domains of well-being are included in the training.

DEBBIE Christen, the Manager Recreational Programmes, had the following to say.

Any changes in your personal work life since starting on the journey? Since embarking on the Eden journey, I have now defined for myself, my role in relation to the vision and mission of the Ron Smith Care Centre and especially in terms of the vision and mission of the OT Activity Centre.

I have become more aware of my role as community builder, facilitator, connector and enabler, a provider of opportunities with the goal of creating improved WELL BEING for all.  (Residents and care partners).

I have become more aware of what Meaningful Engagement means to different people.

I have tried to develop a more facilitative type of leadership.  I try to collaborate and empower.  

I have tried to delegate worthwhile work which became a gift of growth and development for others.

I am cognisant of our Vision and Mission and keep it central to my work.

Vision of the Centre:    A person-centred community of Elders and Care Partners, where individual’s needs are known and where their identity is recognized and honoured.  The centre will strive to create an environment where opportunities are created to live life to the fullest, by engaging in meaningful activities which bring about well-being:  joy, purpose, connectedness and independence.

Mission of the Centre:  To work as a team to identify individual needs, interests, and abilities, and to create well-being by providing opportunities for physical, mental, creative, spiritual and social growth, stimulation, relaxation and fun.

In light of this Vision and Mission and the ideals and values of the Eden Alternative philosophy, I now personally and professionally focus primarily on the following:

    • Promoting/facilitating WELL-BEING for the community at RSCC and trying to facilitate an environment which is enjoyable and meaningful to the residents, staff and volunteers who live and work here.
    • Providing opportunities for PERSONAL GROWTH for all.
    • Providing opportunities to ensure individuals are KNOWN.
    • Using the 7 Domains of Well-Being as a checklist for evaluating all programmes, activities and events
    • Being a CONNECTOR AND ENABLER.  Building relationships by facilitating MEANINGFUL & JOYFUL ENGAGEMENTS within the community.
    • Developing a leadership style which is facilitative and trying to motivate and empower residents and staff to fully participate in planning and decision-making.

What changes have you seen in the lives of the Elders?

  • With every Who Am I story session we do for residents and staff, I can see individuals blossoming and blooming as their stories are shared and told.  The Who Am I’s  have been a life and identity-affirming initiative and I think I can say that these story sessions have made a powerful and meaningful impact on the well being of both the givers and receivers of the stories.  Families who have been consulted in terms of residents ‘stories (especially those families of residents living with dementia) have appreciated giving input into their loved ones’ life story.
  • Some residents, who never participated in anything, are now doing something.  We have become more aware of the simple pleasures of others.
  • Some of those who have been socially isolated, are slowly being reached.
  • Residents seem more interested in the programme and what’s going on around them.
  • I have seen personal growth take place, as residents get involved with activities and people that bring them joy and meaning.  One beautiful example of this growth is the story of resident, Ethelwynne van Eck.  She had a stroke about 2 years ago which affected her right side.  Prior to the stroke, she had been a passionate painter and art lover, who had sold hundreds of her oil paintings (mainly still life and flowers).  After the stroke, she became quite despondent because she was no longer able to do what she absolutely loved to do –paint!  I was recently contacted by Barbara Durlacher, an Elphin Lodge resident and member of Elphin’s Art Group.  She wanted to know if I could recommend an artist or art teacher to come and tutor the members of her art group, as they felt that they needed some guidance and advice. Having just done a Who Am I story about Ethelwynne, I knew that it was her dream to be involved with painting again and decided to ask her if she would be interested in joining the Elphin group in the capacity of tutor.  She was a little hesitant (perhaps lacking confidence in herself), but eventually agreed to go and meet the art group. And as they say, the rest is history. The group has welcomed her with open arms and she has been attending the group once a week without fail for about 2 and half months now.  And besides advising the group on their individual paintings, she also brings some coloured pencils and designs to colour in herself.  She has made new friends, has re-connected with the art world and simply has a new lease on life.  She never fails to thank me for connecting her with other painters and for facilitating such mutually rewarding relationships.

‘Just a little addendum to the story about Ethelwynne.  I saw her yesterday and she was telling me that since attending the art group, she can now draw with her left hand (she was right-handed, but could no longer draw or paint after her stroke).  She also mentioned that when she was first asked to come and tutor, she said that she didn’t want to just advise other people, she wanted to be “one of them” which is what she has now become.  She belongs!’

BIANCA Richards is the Occupational Therapist.

Have there been any changes in how some family members respond?

  • Getting the family on board is always challenging. However I find sometimes just by bringing the family up to scratch with the Eden philosophy and concept, most tend to then understand why we do things the way we do. I often find myself having to bring up the domains of well being in order to get the families to understand that each individual has their own identity and values of what is meaningful and important in their lives.
  • Families often join in on the activity with their loved ones if they are visiting  whilst they are in the activity centre.
  • The most challenging aspect has been getting families who expect their loved one to be busy all the time to understand that it is okay for your loved one to sit and just “chill out” once in awhile. We often use pictures of previous events and engagement in activities to show to families that their loved one does participate in activities at some point.

Have you noted any changes in the way employees interact / engage?

  • Yes, Staff are friendlier and open with each other.
  • Staff take the time to get to know their residents and how they like thing to be done
  • With regards to our events we often now try to always include and cater for our staff so that they can also participate and enjoy the event along with the residents.
  • I find that the Domestic workers aren’t as scared to voice their opinions and are a little more outspoken when it comes to giving information with regards to residents or ideas.
  • Employees take an interest in part taking in different social events or dress up days as there is more effort and thought put into things. Some staff will even take initiative to celebrate and decorate their wing for certain events or celebrations.

Can you identify the value of the process / content of aspects and plans stemming from Milestone 1?

  • Code of ethics has helped immensely with in my department with regards to resolving conflict and challenges, as we constantly make use of it when certain challenges come up amongst staff, residents and Volunteers
  • Mealtimes is always a challenge, I found that by having a written out plan to what would be done to improve mealtimes really has helped make mealtimes more meaningful and pleasant for a lot of residents. Lakeside has done well in this area and they still follow through with what was implemented. 
  • 10 Eden principles  constantly encourage us to remember certain aspects such as spontaneity and variety. And alleviate loneliness and boredom by just simply listening to what the Resident or staff member wants.

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