Malabar Home for the Aged matron is on call 24/7

2016-11-02 06:00
Malabar Home for the Age matron Suraya Joel assisting in the home’s vegetable garden.

Malabar Home for the Age matron Suraya Joel assisting in the home’s vegetable garden.

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WHILE watching elderly citizens enjoy the company of a group of children, matron Suraya Joel beams with joy.

Joel (58) has been working at Malabar Home for the Aged for almost 10 years, and the residents have become like her family.

She often has a busy schedule as the home is bustling with activity and various community projects.

“A lot of people come to help and children from different schools come to visit. So many people say they didn’t know there’s so much life inside,” Joel said.

“Throughout the year we have nursing students coming in for their frail care practicals. It’s nice to have students over and the residents enjoy their company,” she added.

One of the popular fundraising activities at the home is the coffee bar which usually takes place every Saturday afternoon. The coffee bar is open to the public and all proceeds go towards the home.

The home is grateful for the support they have received from the community, especially with their Donate a Diaper campaign.

“We struggle a lot with diapers, so we started a Donate a Diaper campaign at the beginning of this year where people could donate any amount towards diapers for our residents.

“The response was good, schools also helped with donations,” Joel said.

The Malabar Home for the Aged was built in 1988, and is currently home to 40 residents of various religions, including Islam.

“All the food is halaal,” Joel said. “Whether the residents are Christian, Muslim or Hindu, the food we buy is halaal. We do have separate pots for the Hindus because of their requirements.”

She added that while her work as a matron is rewarding it can clash with family activities.

“It’s a lot of work when you’re the only sister. I’m on call 24 hours, Sunday to Sunday. If somebody is not feeling well, I come in to check on them. I also see to the general running of the home.”

“Being on call can disrupt family life but my husband and children are very supportive. If I have to go in at night, my husband will drop me off, open the gate and make sure I’m okay.”

While there are many students in the Bay who want to become nurses, Joel emphasised the need of having patience, especially if planning to work in frail care.

“Residents can be aggressive and have beaten up ward aides with a stick.”

She added that some of the residents still think the prices are the same as they were when they were younger.

“Before you could buy so much with a R20, so when they only get given a few items for their R20, they are disappointed. You need to have patience.”

At first, Joel wanted to become a doctor but she decided to become a nurse and grew to love frail care work.

“I actually wanted to study medicine but my dad said that girls don’t go away from home.

“I decided to study nursing because it’s close to medicine and I could study it in PE. The university still doesn’t offer medicine as a study option, but I enjoy nursing, it’s how God wants it to be.”

Joel grew up in the northern areas and attended Bethelsdorp High School where she was selected as head girl in 1975.

She completed her nursing diploma at Livingston Hospital and completed a short health course on HIV/AIDS at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. She later studied psychiatry at the University of Natal in 2003, and worked in ICU at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. She currently resides in Malabar with her husband Mohammed Toyer Joel (64).

Joel has been in purdah for almost 30 years, and said that purdah does not restrict her in terms of work.

“In the past, I used to always cover up but I never always wore a cloak. I decided to wear purdah so that I could conceal and dress for the pleasure of God.”

Despite a demanding schedule, Joel enjoys helping in the old age home’s vegetable garden.

“We have danya, thyme, rosemary, beetroot, carrots, onions, tomatoes and lettuce growing in our garden. We don’t have to buy salads.

“I’m passionate about producing your own food, it’s sustainable and contributes to a healthier society,” she said. “We can’t change the world but if people can do good in their environment, they can change many people’s lives.”

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