This month’s theme is Compassion!

A few words from Rayne…

In our world of aged care, we’re expected to be compassionate. Our days are often filled with giving love and showing care and empathy. We should be tolerant and patient, count to 10 and turn the other cheek. As much as we passionately believe in caring for them, the truth is that older people are not always easy people. It can be challenging when their responses are harsh, ungrateful, racist or just plain rude – especially since many of us have been in the sector for years, giving of ourselves and truly trying to change the world of older and vulnerable people.

Consider this: Is it not an interesting phenomenon that the shoemaker’s children often don’t have shoes to wear? We pride ourselves in the fact that we care so much. But how well do we care for ourselves? Compassion fatigue is real. I remember my own mother, a wonderful example of a caregiver for older people, telling me after a particularly difficult interaction with an elder, “I think it’s time that I retire…”. I believe that compassion fatigue is often the cause of numbness, irritation, a “stick to the rules” attitude – and even abuse – on the job.

I’ve always hated the abuse bandwagon, simply because in my 22 years of working in aged care, I’ve mostly met the most wonderful people, doing incredible work under often difficult circumstances. Yet I also see caregivers who give up, who shut down, who simply don’t have the energy to go even the required mile, never mind the extra mile. With low wages, long hours, families to care for and personal, emotional and often health issues, our workforce can run low on compassion from time to time.

At GERATEC we have always believed in “as management does unto staff, so the staff will do unto the residents”. This is the golden rule of The Eden Alternative. If we want our staff to be compassionate, we need to show them what compassion looks like. We need to walk the compassion talk. This doesn’t mean we can’t enforce discipline. Being kind and compassionate doesn’t mean that one can’t demand accountability. But is does require us to consider how we enforce discipline. Yes, we should be consistent – but doesn’t that sometimes mean we don’t see the person for the rules that we’ve created?

Again, we need to be kind to ourselves. Compassion, like charity, starts at home – with you. What is built into your day (yes, your every day) that shows compassion towards yourself? How well do you treat your feet? What do you do to nurture your soul? (Chocolate helps…). How kind are you to you?

We can only give from a place of abundance. So how do you ensure that you have compassion in abundance, that your cup runneth over with all the things that you need to offer daily – humour, love, caring, energy, time, understanding, empathy, and so on? ONLY through being kind to yourself can you be kind to others – even if you don’t particularly like them sometimes…

Rayne Stroebel, Managing Director

One of our company values is Compassion. How does the dictionary define compassion?

compassion noun
sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
Synonyms: pity, sympathy, feeling, fellow feeling, empathy, understanding, care, concern, solicitude, solicitousness, sensitivity, tender-heartedness, soft-heartedness, warmheartedness, warmth, love, brotherly love, tenderness, gentleness, mercy, mercifulness, leniency, lenience, tolerance, consideration, kindness, humanity, humaneness, kindheartedness, charity, benevolence

This is definitely what makes our company unique, and it is expressed through our motto: Excellence in person-centred care.

Here are just as few of the many examples of what’s happening in our units every day.

One of our residents at Silver Oaks had major weight-loss, and our employees raised the red flag that he wasn’t eating well. We tried a few things out, without much success, until Yulaine, one of the FSAs, took on the responsibility of personally supervising his diet. She found out through observation and enquiries exactly what he would eat and went out of her way to provide him with the meals and shakes that he would eat and that would help him to gain weight. Eight months later, we celebrated a 10kg weight gain.

We received this letter earlier this year from a speech therapist working at a wellknown medical facility, which praises the team at Vonke Park for the attention and care they give to texture-modified diets: “Yesterday (Monday 8 Jan) I was with my mom feeding her at lunch time, and her plate of puréed food was a visual masterpiece. Such wonderful piping, I should have taken a photo! And, of course, being a good speech therapist, I tasted it, and it was scrumptious! Compliments to you and to the chefs. Excellent! Xx”

One of our cooks, Felicia, brings pomegranates from her home to add extra flavour to the salads.

Another of our assistant managers has so much compassion for residents. One of the residents moved to another home and during his time off he went to visit her. She wasn’t very happy with her special diet at her new home, so he took the time to go and explain her needs to the kitchen team, and he also offered to still bring her gluten-free bread rolls that he bakes.

Johanna, one of our FSAs at Silwerkruin, made it her daily duty to visit one of the residents who couldn’t come to the dining room because of her health. Because Johanna knows the resident so well, she knows she likes ice-cold water, so at meal times she would go to the resident’s room with a glass of ice-cold water.

Smoothies made with special care for a resident at Rusoord who has cancer and whose appetite isn’t always good.

Compassion in long-term care.

People often use the word compassion very loosely. But what exactly does it mean?

Compassion can be defined as actions that involve and demonstrate characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity, kindness and warmth. All too frequently one of the factors that underpins poor care is an attitude that is task based, rather than person-centred care, and in this case the compassion characteristics are often missing.

GERATEC’s vision is ‘Excellence in person-centered care’, which means that all care actions are done according to the person’s choices. It is the individual’s right to choose how he or she wish to “be” (Wilkins, 2003).

Compassionate person-centred care can thus be seen as the connection with the person, recognising the centrality of relationships, emphasising the need to understand the whole person as a person, not just a ‘disability’ or ‘disease’.

Residents are cared for with the following in mind: their life story,  respect for the person’s autonomy, building good interpersonal relationships with the resident, and also among the employees. The older person is valued and respected for the person he or she is.

In contrast is the medical model in which the older person ‘hands over their body to the experts’ and must unquestioningly be compliant in order to be a good resident. If the person is non-compliant, they’re labelled as ‘difficult’. Health professionals are being seen as the ‘experts’ in a position of power over the older person, who is often called ‘the patient’.

To summarise, compassion in care is performance of principles that see the older person for the real  person he or she is, and all care actions are based on the belief that the older person has a choice in how the care must be rendered.


Compassion in Finance

As is the case with any other business, GERATEC’s finance department handles everything related to money. Compassion is not something traditionally associated with money. It’s more often associated with charity. So, the thinking goes, if there’s no money but people need help, you start a charity. But what we don’t want is a charity that has an impersonal relationship with its beneficiaries. With some charities, when money comes in, it simply seems as if resources or services are distributed from afar. The human element is missing.

It might sound odd to say you should show compassion through money but when money is viewed as just a tool, and not the end goal, it’s possible to use money compassionately and show compassion with money. Money is subservient to compassion, our end goal. This is how we approach money at GERATEC.

We get paid by our clients to provide a compassionate service. We know who our clients are, we know what they’re like, and we want to surround them with friendly, helpful people. We want to give them the best food and service available. We want to show them we understand them and that we care.

We don’t fight about money. We respect that we’re  working with somebody else’s money to offer specialised services: whether we’re cooking their food, washing their feet, making their bed or giving them a hug, everything that comes from us is focused on those in our care. These are the kinds of acts that demonstrate compassion. If you think about it, the opposite of compassion is cruelty, which takes us back to traditional approaches to finances. The most inhumane things done to people who are poor, or have little money, have been done by cruel people with lots of money.

A moral rule  for GERATEC is this: Never exercise cruelty when dealing with other people’s money. Our company is one of compassion, not charity; compassion, not cruelty.  

Compassion – a blank cheque

In a world in which life is a race for bigger, better and faster, is there still time to be compassionate towards ourselves and others? In our hearts, we all feel compassion. But sometimes it gets buried beneath the hurts and disappointments of our previous work and life experiences.

How do we unmask that beautiful, hidden value? This is one of our missions at GERATEC – to awaken compassion in each person that comes into contact with the company.

Each person can remember and show compassion, but it starts with you: Check in to your heart and become compassionate towards yourself. Stop focusing on the things you’re doing wrong. Stop telling yourself you can only rest or eat or take a break once you’ve done this or that. Stop beating yourself up and being your worst enemy. Only through being kind to yourself can you truly be kind and compassionate towards others and, from there, start paying it forward.

At GERATEC, compassion is an everyday, normal occurrence. Employees are automatically compassionate towards residents, sometimes without them realising it, because compassion flows naturally from top management all the way down to each and every employee.

Compassion is not a value you get paid for. How can you get paid for making sure someone eats, even when that person has been sent home from hospital and their family have prepared for the next step? Can you even put a monetary value on that? What is the value of making someone feel safe and happy, in a world that is changing and becoming smaller every day?Remember that when you show compassion, the rewards are great and it’s like having a blank cheque that you can fill in yourself. You decide how big your reward will be. And if you don’t have the time to use up all your rewards earned by compassion in your lifetime, it will be an investment passed on to generations to come.

The Operational Development Programme (ODP) guides and coaches participants in all aspects of GERATEC’s procedures and general management, as well as personal growth. The recent group who completed this programme comprises employees who showed managerial potential within their places of work. Here’s what they had to say…

The ODP programme supported me to be more compassionate by…

“…giving me perspective on the running of other units, showing me that each of our units are so uniquely different and suggesting how we can support each other. It was an opportunity to feel at ease asking questions without getting judged for not knowing everything, and for learning all the aspects of our company. I realised that I’m an important link in a great company where everyone really cares for one another.” – Lottie Aylward, Silwerkruin


“…giving me more information regarding all the different departments. And if you ever feel unsure about anything, you can always refer back to the ODP manual.” – Nicolette Poole, Azaleahof


“…showing me how to be a better leader.” – Lizal Adriaanse, Silver Oaks


“…reminding me that becoming part of a company that shows so much passion for the older person was a dream come true. At first I was in the dark, but after every ODP session there was light! I’ve learned so much and I’m still learning. To everyone who was a part of my journey, many thanks for the opportunity.” – Michelle van der Nest, Bridgewater


“…giving me the knowledge needed to be more productive in the workplace.” – Nadirah Emandien, Nerina Gardens


“…helping me to understand the company’s policies and procedures better. I am now more confident to perform my tasks and handle disciplinary actions. This programme is essential for any person who shows potential and who wants to further their career at GERATEC.” – Suzelle van Riel, Vergenoegd


“…improving my people skills so that I can be more patient, courteous, friendly and respectful.” – Olivia Saayman, Schonenberg


“…supplying me with the correct tools and guidance. It opened a whole new world for me, a world I could only dream of a year ago!” – Esmerelda Esau, Robari


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