Retirement homes in lockdown

* Silvermine Village employees, Kanyiso Tomi and Menzeli Mhlotshazana deliver take-aways to residents.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen far south retirement facilities ramp up measures to protect the elderly who are most at risk.

According the Western Cape Department of Health, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.

As of Wednesday March 18 – several days before President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Monday night of a national 21-day lockdown – Fish Hoek Elder Care, which includes Nerina Gardens and Carlisle Lodge, had already instituted its own lockdown.

Nerina Gardens manager Sandy Lovick said it was an essential measure.

No visitors have been allowed and residents have been asked not to leave the property unless it’s for medical reasons.

All outside church services have been cancelled, and the coffee shop and line dancing is no longer open to the public.

Ms Lovick said various activities have been planned to keep residents stimulated during this period.

St James Retirement Hotel managing director Gael Baldwin said they had been in lockdown since Monday March 23. No visitors were allowed and residents were asked not to leave the hotel unless in a case of emergency.

“We have all protocols in place for this lockdown and while these are challenging times, we are ready to do what is needed,” she said.

Silvermine Village general manager Tania Shamley said while they had only been in lockdown since the weekend, the village had several protocols in place for the past month.

Security and front-line staff had received special training and one of the complex’s units had been taken off the market and turned into an isolation unit with hospital beds.

Communal lunch had been cancelled and the kitchen only prepared takeaways which were delivered to residents.

Residents had still been allowed to leave the estate but no visitors were allowed access to the village or the health-care centre during lockdown and all group activities had been cancelled. No delivery vehicles were allowed on the premises and food deliveries were received at a separate gate and non-essential services had been withdrawn.

Ms Shamley said they were in constant communication with residents about the virus and regular updates were given.

“It is important for our residents to have access to information so they can make informed decisions,” she said.

The Echo spoke to some residents about their fears and thoughts on the pandemic.

St James Retirement Hotel resident Janice Maguire, 69, said she was up to date with information about the virus but did not live in fear.

She has multiple sclerosis and is aware that she could be at risk.

“I have spoken to my doctor, and I am in good health and I’m eating and sleeping well. I’m taking good care of myself,” she said.

In addition, she said, the hotel had taken all the necessary steps to safeguard its residents.

“Railings, surfaces and hands are sanitised at all times. I feel that I am in good hands,” she said.

Another St James resident, Margaret McAlister, 84, said she followed news of the outbreak on TV. She is aware that she is at risk and while she is alarmed at the speed with which the virus is spreading she said there was no point in panicking.

“The hotel is doing a wonderful job with cleaning and sanitising. I am safe here,” she said.

Silvermine Village resident, Rick Granelli, 78, said the outbreak was very concerning.

He said he was up to date with news about the virus and he was doing everything he could to prevent the spread.

“We are self isolating and washing our hands and limiting human to human contact and ordering supplies online,” he said.

He said the village was giving them daily updates.

Yvonne Munro, 75, also from Silvermine Village said she was trying to keep to herself.

“I keep in touch via email and order takeaways from the village kitchen although I still cook for myself.

She said the village had been proactive even before President Cyril Ramaphosa”had declared the outbreak a national disaster.

“A protocol was worked out and was updated as information came in,” she said.