Eldercare staff at the front line in Covid-19 fight

Mona Shenton, assistant occupational therapist Elise Dyers, Kate Ford and Rita van Rensburg. Picture: KAREN WATKINS

Elise Dyers is working at the front line of the fight against one of the worst pandemics in human history – she works at an old-age home in Goodwood.

Many residents at Protea Home for the elderly have been through tough times in their lives. And now, shut in their rooms for most of the day, they are unable to be with family or fellow residents.

Ms Dyers has worked at Protea for almost 11 years. She started as a carer and is now an assistant occupational therapist.

Like other health-care workers caught up in the fight, Ms Dyers is well aware of the risks. She fears getting infected and passing the virus on to her daughter and granddaughter who live with her.

Standing under a tree across the road from the home, wearing protective apron and mask, Ms Dyers says every corridor has sanitiser. As she talks, a laundry worker and a maintenance man walk in front of the building, all wearing protective gear. No-one is allowed in or out of the home with the exception of doctors.

Ms Dyers has a lot of praise for management. Pointing to a table at the entrance, she says anyone leaving or entering is sanitised, including their shoes. She leaves spare uniforms at work and changes when she arrives and leaves. When family members leave treats at the entrance, security sanitise them before handing over.

Ms Dyers says management provide transport if there are taxi problems. She lives in Eersterivier and takes four taxis a day. She says they are full even though a minibus licensed to carry ten passengers may only carry seven, and no-one wears masks (everyone must wear a mask as part of level 4 lockdown). “When someone coughs or sneezes we cannot see who has it. You can have it for two weeks and not know you have it,” she says.

When she arrives home she removes her clothes, puts them in the washing machine and has a shower.

Protea Home is not full and management let staff sleep over if there are travel problems. All their bedding, laundry and meals are provided. This applies to all staff. “We are all here to see that the elderly are looked after,” Ms Dyers says.

But residents miss their families and can’t wait for lockdown to be over, she adds. They also miss playing cards, thumbing through magazines, colouring in and soft ball games, among others. 

A highlight of Ms Dyers’s day is reading the newspapers to residents in the sun room. “The newspapers keep us up to date with what’s happening with coronavirus, she says.

“It’s a scary time for all. They want to be well so their families can visit and take them on outings,” Ms Dyers says, adding that she’s grateful to still have a job.“We take risks to come here,” she says. “I have a grateful heart. God is good.”