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In 2017, Rand Aid Association introduced a Community Care Co-ordination Programme to ensure a continuing holistic and comprehensive service to its residents, covering the health, social, emotional, interactional and psychological aspects of aging.

The need for the programme was apparent when considering the age profile in Rand Aid’s retirement villages, and the well-researched vulnerabilities that come with ageing.

According to Zabeth Zühlsdorff Rand Aid’s general manager: Services and Advance Division, as older people live longer, they become more vulnerable to a multitude of stressful life situations involving loss and change on so many levels, such as unexpected health, memory and financial changes, or the devastating loss of a lifelong partner or adult child, or the emigration of children and close friends and family.

“The resultant loss of emotional and financial support; and changes in physical and/or mental health impact well-being,” she says.

The Care Co-ordination Programme commenced in August 2017, when Sue Prior joined Rand Aid as a social worker.

The programme has since grown to include Debbie Beech, who joined Elphin Lodge in February 2019; and Ulricka Beukman, who joined Tarentaal in March 2019. In January 2022, Shaun Victor, who is based at Inyoni Creek, joined the team; and Erene Mitchell is the new team member at Thornhill Manor.

Basing the social workers at the villages gives them the opportunity to become part of the village network and work closely with village management, nursing staff and the residents’ medical doctors. This enables them to establish trust and confidence with residents; provide a familiar, comfortable and caring place for residents to come and relive treasured memories, share  concerns and explore solutions, and be received with understanding and empathy.  

The principles of dignity and respect for residents and confidentiality guide all aspects of the social workers’ role, says Zabeth.

Rand Aid’s social workers have been trained in the Eden Alternative, a philosophy where the core concept is about teaching us to see ageing as a natural life stage, and the places where older persons live, as habitats for continued growth, development and meaning.

One of their core functions is to anticipate, assess and address the needs resulting from life’s inevitable stresses. Many hardships can be minimised or averted by frequent, open and supportive communication, says Sue, who co-ordinates the programme.

“Thus, whilst specifically determining gaps in care, the social workers focus on identifying residents’ individual strengths, resources and support systems, and then utilising and adapting them as needs change, enabling residents to make informed choices,” says Sue.

“One of the most important roles has been aligning closely with all village and Care Centre staff in building a supportive environment in our facilities, where residents are connected with each other and can form an internal support structure to bring joy and meaning to life,” she adds.

In addition, the social workers regularly research and implement programmes on various topics, including memory care, disability, bereavement, terminal illness and work collaboratively with administrative and nursing staff to promote an integrated and holistic approach in how Rand Aid cares for residents.

Reach out to Rand Aid’s social workers

  • Sue Prior: Community Care Co-ordinator Head Office: 084 610 0453 / 011 8822510.
  • Debbie Beech: Social Worker Elphin Lodge and Ron Smith Care Centre: 083 232 5535 / 011 882 6296.
  • Ulricka Beukman: Social Worker Tarentaal: 082 825 6617 / 011 882 2510.
  • Shaun Victor: Social Worker Inyoni Creek: 071 674 1849 / 011 430 2014.
  • Erene Mitchell: Social Worker Thornhill Manor: 082 690 5368 / 011 608 2480.

Meet Shaun

Social worker Shaun Victor joined Inyoni Creek in January.

After graduating from the University of Stellenbosch in 2007, Shaun worked for the Department of Social Development in Gugulethu for two years.

He then moved to Mpumalanga and worked for the Lowveld Association of People with Disabilities and then for the South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) Nelspruit. In 2013, he transferred to NICRO Pretoria.

From 2016 to 2020, Shaun worked as the residential social worker at Arcadia Jewish Child and Youth Care Centre. And, before joining Rand Aid Association, he worked at Epilepsy South Africa (Gauteng) as assistant director for a year.

He has augmented his social work degree by completing a Higher Certificate in Management and a short course in employee assistance. Shaun also presented a five-day training programme in Cameroon, and an online course – to delegates from across Africa – on the IBE Advocate’s Toolkit for Making Epilepsy a Priority in Africa.     

“I look forward to having a positive impact on Inyoni Creek’s residents and to becoming an integral part of this journey,” says Shaun.

“Rand Aid Association offers residents a support structure that leads to a carefree retirement, and I am eager to put my experience and education to good use,” he adds.

Meet Erene!

Erene Mitchell recently joined Thornhill Manor as its community care coordinator. The new position was much-needed and has been widely welcomed by staff and residents alike.

Erene has a wealth of experience across a broad spectrum of social work.

Throughout her life, she has had a special link working with senior citizens. “I can remember growing up with lots of elderly people because my mother had a special interest in caring for them,” says Erene.

After obtaining her degree at Wits University, she gained a wealth of social work experience over a period of 17 years. Her first position was with the Johannesburg Care for the Aged Association. “I somehow have had good links with seniors for a long time.”

Erene’s career spanned the full spectrum of social work.

“I was very blessed to have worked with people struggling with their eyes, including rehabilitation work for people who were newly blinded; through to family restoration, gender-based violence, adverse childhood experiences and people dealing with traumatic incidents.”

Her career included running her own practice for 11 years, with a focus on family restoration work. “This provided exposure to needs ranging from addiction to family conflicts and other challenges of life.”

It was a natural progression for her to join Thornhill Manor. “I’m thrilled to be part of such a competent team and to be among beautiful people.”

Erene glows when she talks about the Eden Alternative values which have been adopted by Rand Aid, describing them as ‘magnificent and aligned to the core values of social work’. This encompasses respect for independence, through to looking at joy and meaningful activities. “It depends on what is meaningful for each individual,” Erene says.

She has a clear direction and vision for her work at Thornhill: “My first challenges will be to help new residents to settle into the village and, as life happens, to assist all residents to adapt to those changes (sometimes very big and quite daunting). These include loss of family members who decide to move abroad, grief, bereavement, loss of mobility, vision or hearing that deeply affect our lives.”

Erene plans to do both one-on-one and group chats. “I’m a gung-ho group worker.”

She needs residents’ participation to make her work meaningful. “I am reliant on residents’ input and ideas concerning areas of focus,” she says.

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