In our Tafta blog, we write about anything and everything to do with active ageing, and promoting a life worth living, regardless of age
Section 27 of our Constitution states that all South Africans have the right to access health care. As we age, that right becomes more important. Because, diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure are more common in older people. So too are problems with vision and hearing.
But, although the right to health care applies equally to all South Africans, in our unequal society, the reality is very different.
If you are comfortably off, with a good medical aid and your own car, you have immediate access to quality private health care. But if you come from a poor urban or rural background, you have to rely on State hospitals and clinics, which are often inadequately resourced or difficult to access.
Too ill to travel to a health facility
By law, the Department of Health must provide free health care services to all older persons who are not part of a private medical aid scheme. But elderly people living in rural areas may not be able to walk long distances to the nearest hospital or clinic. And they may not be able to afford to pay for transport. Dangerously ill people may wait hours for an ambulance to arrive, if it arrives at all. The irony is that at times, the elderly are too ill to make the trip to a health facility.
Even when they do manage to get to the hospital or clinic, older people are often treated with a lack of empathy or respect by health care professionals who are not trained in elder care. Being treated like a child, or shouted at because you can’t hear properly, strips you of your dignity and makes the whole experience upsetting and degrading. Having to wait hours to see the doctor, or being told rudely to ‘come back tomorrow’, when you’ve spent your last few rands on the taxi fare, makes a mockery of our right to access health care.
Yet elders in this situation are unlikely to stand up for themselves and demand their rights. Often, they don’t even know that they have rights. Many lacked the opportunity to attend school or dropped out at an early age and have little or no access to this type of information.
Lack of awareness of human rights
Lack of awareness impacts on health in other ways as well. In South Africa, many older persons take on the role of caring for grandchildren, including those who have been orphaned because of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. A number of family members may live together, crowded into a single room – ideal conditions for the spread of TB. But elders are not included in routine HIV/AIDS screening or counselling in the public health care sector, nor are they made aware of how to manage chronic conditions.
Effects of poverty on health
Poverty also takes its toll on older people, as it is a major cause of poor nutrition. Elders are usually unemployed or have retired due to age. Those who receive old age grants may not be able to buy food that is appropriate for their health conditions. And many go without food themselves because their grant money is all that is available to sustain their unemployed children and grandchildren.
Elders who live in residential care facilities are better placed to access their right to health care. Tafta staff are aware of the Department of Health’s responsibility and will ensure that elders in their care receive medical help where necessary. Many old age homes offer transport to enable elders to get to State hospitals or clinics. But that still leaves the problem of long queues and health care staff who have a poor understanding of older persons’ specific health needs.
Low cost clinic at Tafta
With these issues in mind, Tafta is embarking on an ambitious new project to set up a primary health care clinic within one of its homes – Kings Hall in the Durban CBD. The clinic would not only serve the 200 residents of the building, but also elders living in other Tafta Homes and the surrounding community.
[October 4, 2021]
These past 18 months have seen us focus on our health like never before. There’s nothing like a life-threatening disease to remind you that you can’t take your good health for granted.
But, Covid-19 aside, there are many other diseases and conditions that can threaten our health. Now is a good time to talk about the preventative measures we can take … in particular, medical screening tests that should be done regularly. This is especially important for those who are getting on in years.
Elders living at Tafta’s Kings Hall will have access to these and other facilities without leaving the building, owing to a new low cost health clinic we hope to set up on the premises. This will be extended to a mobile clinic service for those living in other Tafta homes, if all goes according to plan.
Regardless of where you go for your regular health checks, these are the ten most important tests to monitor health and pick up conditions before they become life threatening.
1. Blood Pressure
Perhaps the most common and well know test, blood pressure should be regularly tested, because it’s possible to have dangerously high blood pressure and not know it. You don’t have to make a special appointment with your doctor for this. Many pharmacies and medical centres offer walk in clinic facilities for blood pressure testing. If your blood pressure is higher than normal, or you have other risk factors, you may need to test more often.
2. Eye test
The risk of developing eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma, increase with age. Macular degeneration can lead to irreversible loss of vision, as can glaucoma (pressure in the eye). Since glaucoma has no symptoms, it’s essential to have the test every year to protect your eyesight.
3. Hearing test
At least 25% of people over the age of 65 have disabling hearing loss, most of which is treatable. That number increases to 50% for the over 75s. Book a hearing test if you have difficulty following a conversation, especially in a noisy environment, such as a restaurant.
4. Cholesterol screening
High cholesterol levels are a major cause of heart attacks and strokes. Again, there are no symptoms. Regular testing is the only way to monitor your cholesterol level. Ideally, your total cholesterol – HDL “good” cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol – should be between 4-5 mmol/L (millimoles per litre of blood). Over 6.5 mmol/L is considered very high, and above 7.8 mmol/L dangerous. If your cholesterol level is high, you may be able to treat if by adjusting your diet. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe medication to control it.
5. Colorectal cancer screening
In South Africa, colon cancer is the second most common cancer among men, and the third most common among women. In its early stages, there are no symptoms, which means it is often not diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage or spread to other parts of the body. Most medical aids offer annual free screening of a stool sample for traces of blood. Depending on the results, you may need to undergo a colonoscopy. You will be sedated and a fibreoptic camera used to scan your colon for cancerous polyps.
6. Bone density scan
Although both women and men can develop osteoporosis in later life, women are at greater risk. A bone density scan measures bone mass, which is a key indicator of bone strength. Regular bone scans are recommended after age 65, especially for women.
7. Vitamin D test
Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin as it is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It’s also present in foods like egg yolk, dairy and oily fish like salmon and sardines. This vitamin helps protect your bones. It may also defend against heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. If you spend a lot of time indoors, you may be deficient in Vitamin D.
8. Blood sugar
Globally, diabetes is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases, and it’s on the increase as a result of unhealthy diet, obesity and an increasing sedentary lifestyle. Approximately 4 581 200 million adults in South Africa have the disease. Left untreated, diabetes can be life-threatening. You should have a fasting blood sugar test at least once every 3 years to screen for the disease. You may need to be tested more frequently if you develop symptoms such as extreme thirst, blurry vision, numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, fatigue or unexplained weight loss.
For women, a breast exam and mammogram is advised every 2 years from age 50, as the risk of breast cancer increases with age. A pelvic exam, Pap smear and HPV test is also recommended. You may think it’s unnecessary, but women over 60 still need to get regular pelvic exams, Pap smears, or human papillomavirus (HPV) tests. Older women can get cervical cancer or vaginal cancer. And the pelvic exam can detect a host of other conditions that may affect your health and quality of life (think incontinence!).
10. And for men, prostate cancer screening.
Prostate cancer can be detected either by a digital rectal exam or by measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in your blood. Testing is recommended from age 50 for men who are not high risk, or earlier for those who have a family history of prostate cancer, or have an immediate relative who has died from the disease.
For people over the age of 50, especially, an annual check up is recommended, during which your doctor will routinely perform most of these tests. You can also protect your health by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and avoiding fatty fast foods, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake to 3 units or less per week and exercising regularly.
[September 28, 2021]
September is Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the culture and history of our people. As an organisation that has served the people of Durban for 63 years, Tafta has its own proud heritage. Where we come from as an organisation is closely linked to the buildings we own. Some are existing buildings that have been converted to old age homes, while others were built specifically for this purpose. Journey through history with us, as we celebrate five iconic heritage buildings.
1. Cambridge House
Cambridge House was Tafta’s first old age home. As such, it holds a special place in our hearts. Built almost a hundred years ago in 1924, the North Ridge Road property was originally used as an orphanage for girls. It was officially opened by Lady May Cambridge, daughter of the governor-general of South Africa, the Earl of Athlone. During the 60s, Cambridge House became a home for 23 elderly ladies of ‘genteel’ birth.
Tafta took over the management of the Home in 1965. Since then, we have extended and renovated the property, which now includes Robert Storm House next door. Today, Cambridge Gardens as it is known, offers 77 upmarket one- and two-bedroom flats. There is also a communal lounge and diningroom, library, hairdresser, and coin operated laundry within the complex.
2. John Conradie House
Named after the founder of Tafta, this Home was purpose built to meet the needs of frail elderly people. At the time, there were no facilities of this kind in Durban. Tafta bought the land in Prince Street from the Durban Corporation, which also provided funding in the form of a long-term, low interest loan. A couple of blocks away from Addington Hospital, the site was ideal for an old age home.
Architect Ernest Hudson Bennett designed the building specifically to meet the needs of frail elders, with input from the Tafta management team. The building had seven floors with accommodation for 198 elders. Each floor had its own lounge, and there was a communal dining room on the ground floor, together with administrative offices. There was also a small chapel on the first floor.
Secretary for Social Welfare and Pensions, Mr CJH Vorster laid the foundation stone in June 1968. Less than a year later, the building officially opened to the first residents. It has remained popular ever since and firmly established Tafta as leaders in the field of elder care.
In 2017, after buying the site next door, Tafta began building another block of flats, Langeler Towers. At the same time, John Conradie House underwent a major facelift. The buildings are joined together at ground level, allowing residents to move freely between the two. Although the Langeler Towers flats are bright and modern, with stunning views over the beachfront and harbour, John Conradie House continues to be our flagship Home. What a fitting memorial to the founders of Tafta, John and Anna Conradie.
3. Kings Hall
This 17-storey block of flats and shops in Aliwal Street (now Samora Machel Street) in the Durban CBD was bought by Tafta in 1980. Many felt that it was a high-risk investment. However, it turned out to be a very wise investment indeed. To this day, demand for flats in the building remains high. Kings Hall boasts 132 one- and two-bed flats for rent or sale on the Life Rights Scheme.
Kings Hall is also the heart of Tafta. It serves as our Head Office, with spacious office space for management, admin and social services staff. Going forward, we plan to establish a new in-house primary health clinic in the building. This will put medical services within easy reach of residents who find it difficult to get to government facilities in the area.
3. John Dunn House
In the late 70s, the community of Wentworth formed an organisation to care for elderly people in the area. Chairman of the new Durban Senior Citizens Association was the Reverend John Dunn, an ordained minister of the Anglican Church. Fundraising began in earnest for a new old age home that would offer frail care and other services.
After a R1.6 million loan was secured from the Department of National Housing, the building went ahead. Tafta’s director at the time, Mr Michael Claye, offered guidance to the new association and both Tafta and the Rotary Club of Durban came on board. The Durban Benevolent Society provided bridging finance, while the boys of Kearsney College also donated the proceeds from their cycle tour – R81 000 – towards the project.
Reverend Dunn saw his dream become reality when he laid the foundation stone for the new building in August, 1987. He died on 13 October 1989, but fortunately lived long enough to attend the opening of the Home, named in his honour, in 1988. His granddaughter, Mrs Ann Dunn, currently resides here and is extremely proud of the fact that her family was instrumental in establishing the Home. Although very frail, she is still able to express that she is very happy here.
Another resident, Dumizile Ndlovu has lived at John Dunn House for 24 years. She is now very frail, but still remembers what she describes as ‘one of the most precious memories of my life’. This was when the staff organized a hoist to lift her and take her to the beach.
John Dunn House was the first facility of its kind, offering a 104 bed frail care facility and a wellness centre – the Primrose Centre – for elders with limited finances.
Pictured above, another long-standing member of the Tafta family. Mary Leppens served the organization for 40 years and chose to spend her retirement at our St Catherine’s Close complex. “The highlight of my career at Tafta was helping to draft The Older Persons Act no 13 of 2006,” she says. “This Act forms the basis of the care of older persons in SA.”
4. Tafta Lodge
Another very popular block of flats, Tafta Lodge was built on a stand at South Beach in 1990. Again, the location was chosen for its convenience to Addington Hospital, providing state pensioners with convenient access to medical treatment. The building comprises over 200 one- and two-bedroom flats, suitable for fit and mobile elders. Facilities include a large communal hall/diningroom, hairdresser, tuckshop and coin operated laundry.
The building is currently undergoing an upgrade to replace outdated electrical wiring, circuits and DB boards. We appeal to members of the public to assist in raising the necessary funds to cover these upgrades, and ensure that Tafta Lodge remains a safe and happy place for Durban’s elders.
5. Tafta Park
In 1994, Tafta was offered the opportunity to buy a piece of land in a good position in Bellair. The land is situated opposite a park, close to nearby shops, doctor’s rooms, a post office, supermarket and petrol station. The historic Bellair Station, built in 1900, is also close by. Plans for 97 one- and two-bedroom units were drawn up, and Tafta Park was born.
Sue Dennison has been living at the complex for the past 15 years and is very happy here. “It is the best move I’ve made. I feel safe, have fun, and have made lots of friends. My family is happy that I’m happy.”
Along with the land, Tafta also gained ownership of a church which stood on the grounds, and the church hall next to it. Built in 1918, the church originally belonged to the Methodist Church. It is now an interdenominational chapel that has served the community of Bellair for over a hundred years. Sadly, the roof and the beams supporting it have become infested with wood borer, and the roof is in danger of caving in.
Tafta is currently fundraising for urgent fumigation and repairs to the structure. Unfortunately, our budget is under strain at the moment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent unrest. This has caused a decrease in income from both rentals and donor funding.
If you can help, or you would like to find out more about this historic building, please contact Prevashni Naidu or Kemmy-Leigh Moodley on tel. 031 332 371 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[September 22, 2021]
No doubt the recent intense cold snap sent South Africans scurrying for their heaters and electric blankets … as well as stocking up on coal and fire wood for open fireplaces.
All of which have the potential to cause fires in our homes.
Most fires are caused by human negligence or electrical faults. Non-compliant wiring, overloaded plugs or faulty electrical appliances can catch fire unexpectedly. People who live in older homes – e.g. old wood and iron structures – need to be particularly vigilant, as the wiring could have degraded over the years, or is simply not compliant with latest safety standards.
Now is a good time to take stock of your home in terms of these risks. Especially if you have an elderly family member who may need to be reminded of potential risks like leaving appliances on for extended periods of time, or forgetting about a pot left boiling on the stove.
Here are some tips to protect your home and yourself from fire:
- Keep matches/lighters out of the reach of children.
- Don’t store flammable liquids or pool chemicals anywhere near a heat source or exposed wiring.
- Never leave an open fire or burning candle unattended. If you have a fireplace, use a metal fireguard to prevent sparks or burning logs from falling out and setting carpets or chairs alight.
- Do not smoke in bed.
- Do not overload electrical sockets or run electrical cords under carpets.
- Take care with portable heat generating appliances such as irons, kettles and heaters.
- Switch off your electric blanket before getting into bed.
- Check electric cables regularly for damage; discard appliances with frayed cords.
- Never cover a heater – take note of warnings on all appliances.
- Be very careful when heating oil on a stove top, especially a gas hob. Make sure there are no dish cloths, paper towels or oven gloves near the stove, and regularly clean off grease build up.
- Buy a small fire extinguisher/fire blanket from a reputable dealer to keep in your home – and learn how to use this equipment correctly.
- Safely dispose of cigarettes, hot ash and coals from the fireplace or braai.
- Do not use flammable liquids to start a braai or fire. It’s frighteningly easy to set yourself alight.
- Clean the lint out of tumble driers regularly to prevent a build up. Avoid leaving the machine running while you are away from your home.
So what happens if, despite all your precautions, fire breaks out in your home? Do you know what to do? Or how to treat someone who has been badly burned or scalded?
What to do if fire breaks out in your home:
- Turn off power source if the fire has been started by an appliance.
- If you have a fire extinguisher or fire blanket, use it to put out a small fire.
- If the room is on fire, cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth to minimise smoke inhalation, and keep low while crawling to safety.
- Do not open a closed door of a room suspected to be on fire.
- Raise the alarm; alert anyone else in the building/neighbours and call the fire department if necessary.
- Do not re-enter your home after a fire until it has been properly evaluated by the fire department.
Half of all home fires start in the kitchen
Deep frying chips and other foods can easily lead to disaster if you are not careful. Be safe by being vigilant:
- Do not put too much oil in the pot and never, ever leave the pot unattended.
- If an oil fire does start, do not try to put it out with water. Since oil and water don’t mix, this can cause a violent reaction, instantly spreading the fire to nearby kitchen cupboards and sending spatters of hot oil flying all over the kitchen and yourself.
- Do not attempt to move the pot. Just turn off the heat source as quickly as possible and cover the pot with a metal lid or fire blanket to suffocate the flames. Leave in place until the pot has cooled completely.
How to treat burns
- Avoid removing clothing as burnt material often sticks to the skin
- Place the burned area under a running cold tap for 15 minutes to cool the area and prevent further damage.
- Don’t put ice on the burn. Never, ever put butter or other lotions on a burn. Use a clean wet dressing or burn shield if you have some in your medicine cabinet. Major burns need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
- If you accidentally set yourself on fire, remember the drill: stop, drop and roll on the ground to put out the flames.
Elderly people and fires
If you are a care-giver for an elder, or have elderly parents who live alone, special care needs to be taken to keep them safe. Forgetfulness is sometimes part of ageing, as is diminished mobility, making it more difficult for elders to escape from a dangerous situation.
Financial constraints may also lead elders to ‘make do’ with old, unsafe appliances rather than buying new ones. Caring for older loved ones means helping them to create a safe environment, and checking on them regularly.
In our Tafta Homes, safety measures for elders take priority. This includes checking on residents, visiting those who are room-bound, and ensuring that appliances brought into their rooms are in good working order. Cooking is not permitted in rooms where residents are provided with meals.
We also conduct regular health and safety inspections as required by law, and are committed to implementing any improvements recommended by the experts. The latest upgrade to Tafta Lodge is a case in point. We are currently fundraising to have electrical wiring upgraded. Please click the link to assist with a donation.
[September 7, 2021]
August is Women’s month. Time to celebrate the contribution women make to society. And what better place to start than right here in our own Tafta Homes?
We count ourselves fortunate indeed to have so many strong, capable, compassionate and dedicated women on our staff. Like everyone else, they have been touched in one way or another by Covid-19. Some have been infected by the disease themselves. Others have been affected financially, emotionally or mentally.
Yet, without exception, they’ve all put on a brave face and come to work, wearing smiles behind their masks, in order to provide cheerful care and support for our elderly residents.
During lockdown, our nurses and carers were often the only contact elders had with the outside world. They carried an entire support system on their shoulders … delivering messages, gifts and medicines from elders’ loved ones, and easing concern, pain and stress. They were there to provide a listening ear and a hand to hold through some of the scariest moments in our elders’ lives. And they did it with such grace and kindness. All this, while holding back their own fears and caring for their own families as well.
Superwoman has nothing on our carers!
We applaud them and thank them sincerely for their efforts. Not just during Women’s month. But every day of every month. And we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed their dedication. Letters from grateful family members have poured in during these stressful and difficult times.
These letters of appreciation talk about going above and beyond ‘duty’ … about being caring in times of stress … of patience and kindness … and how our staff are ready to put their own lives at risk in order to be there for the elders in their care.
This message of thanks from Nireshni Chellan is just one of many:
“In a time when the world seems to be in chaos, I would really like to extend my appreciation and admiration for one of your social workers – Lungi Mbewe. She has gone beyond duty in assisting me with getting my parents the care that they need.
“Through it all, she has been nothing but polite and caring. Clearly this is her calling. Too often we are quick to complain, but today I would like to take the time to commend an excellent social worker and human being. To Lungi and all the others like her out there – THANK YOU!”
After the awful week of unrest in KZN, more letters of appreciation came flooding in. Staff at Tafta proved again just how resilient they are. They put aside fear and difficulties in order to get to work. They made sure to ease the fears of elders in our care, and reassured elders’ families who were concerned for the safety of their loved ones.
Chris wrote: “Dear Hannelie. I just truly, with all my heart, want to thank you and all the staff SO very much – more than any words can or could possible convey –for leaving your own family, for risking your own life to get to work, to make sure my mom and all the other residents are safe, fed and taken care of. My words do not suffice.”
And from Nadine, Mandy and Mike, “Dear Sister Mala, We wanted to express our thanks to you and your staff at the Care Cottage for the excellent work you are doing in these terribly stressful times. Dealing with the pandemic has been very difficult, but this hideous violence has created problems we never imagined and you have our admiration for the way you are dealing with circumstances. We know our mom appreciated your care immensely.”
Women of Tafta, take a bow!
[August 18, 2021]