The Pietermaritzburg and District Council for the Aged (Padca) is restricting visitors to its frail care facilities, care homes and retirement villages to safeguard the health of residents.
Trevor Clowes, chief executive officer of Padca, told Weekend Witness that in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the risk the virus posed to older people, they had sent out information to residents and their families to reassure them that they were taking all feasible measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
He added: “Until April we have restricted access to all visitors, only allowing access to visitors for the following reasons: to visit a resident who is living with a life-limiting illness; because of the imminent death of a family member; and when a family member is vital to the continued well-being of a resident.
“In these instances the visitor must answer a questionnaire at the gate, which will assess the risk the visitor possess to our residents.
“Those who enter have their hands sprayed with sanitiser and are made aware of the heightened requirements pertaining to personal hygiene, such as handwashing and cough etiquette and are given information on preventative measures.
“Where possible they meet in the garden or away from the communal areas.”
Clowes said they were also encouraging residents living independently to limit their social contacts and to stay home as much as possible.
Where residents have returned from visiting overseas, they have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“Much of our work at the moment is in terms of calming people down and giving them information from credible sources,” Clowes said.
They are also trying to mitigate the effects of self-isolation on their residents, who are being discouraged from taking part in stimulating group activities and physical exercise for now.
The latter is especially worrying as the elderly lose muscle mass and with it their independence if they do not exercise and maintain their levels of functionality.
At the Amberglen retirement estate in Howick, which has 430 homes and a frailcare facility, steps are also being taken to protect residents living in an age-vulnerable area.
At the entrance to the village they are screening visitors, staff and contractors for normal body temperature using an infrared thermometer.
“We are also sanitising everyone’s hands before entry,” said general manager, Yvette Schoeman.
Amberglen has also made the decision to deliver meals from the dining room and cafe directly to each cottage and has temporarily suspended all activities, meetings and groups. Access to its heated pool has also been cancelled and sanitisers are being distributed in common areas.
Asked what Amberglen was doing to help residents to keep their spirits up, Schoeman said they are keeping communication flowing via e-mail, printed media to post boxes and via their helpdesk, which logs faults and requests and fields all questions residents might have.
“We are encouraging cottage residents to complete all outstanding filing, photo books, creating memoirs for the children and grandchildren.
“We have created new pathways to enjoy walking the dogs or just enjoying nature and searching for elusive wildlife that frequent our village. Activities such as fishing, sailing model boats on the dam, bird watching from the bird hide is encouraged.”
Suvira Hariram, manager of Pafta (Pietermaritzburg Association for the Aged), said they had taken the difficult decision to close its popular social centre untl after the Easter holidays.
“Many of the elderly are very reliant on the centre. Some come here every day because they have no where else to go,” she added.
“We weren’t happy about closing, but felt it was the right thing to do because it only takes one person to get the virus and it will spread quickly. We sometimes have more than 100 people at the centre,” said Hariram.