“I’ve learnt [from her and others] to live in the moment, to always be grateful and to never say no to an opportunity to be social.”
We're able to carry out our work supporting our elders because of the special people who make up our Care team. We’ve recently welcomed Michelle (Shelly) Bredenkamp as our first Area Manager in Pretoria. Get to know Shelly and find out more about why she is so passionate about Elder-care.
What makes you passionate about working with seniors?
I once had a conversation with an Elderly lady that left such a strong impression on me. She told me how she and her elderly friends are often invisible. They are not seen or heard, and they are very often excluded from what we consider to be normal life in our communities. I realised how much truth there was in what she was saying.
Our days are filled with work, chores, and activities – we’re so busy that we can forget about the elders in our lives. We take for granted that ‘they’re not going anywhere’ and that we can see them at any time which suits us.’ But sadly, we don’t often give them the time that they deserve.
I decided that I wanted to slow down and really listen to them. I wanted to hear about the role they once played in society and also the role that they feel they have now. I wanted them to feel special and to give back some of the dignity that they feel they may have lost.
That conversation sparked my passion for Elderly care and my goal now is to do what I can to make them feel special, heard and cared for. It’s a good day when I’ve helped someone feel valued and made them smile.
Tell us about an elder that made an impact on your life.
I am a companion to an incredibly special elderly lady that inspires me every day with her positivity and her determination to live life.
Her children are overseas, so she lives alone and has her share of health challenges, but she still finds joy and happiness in her life and she never complains. I’ve learnt from her and others to live in the moment, to always be grateful and to never say no to an opportunity to be social.
We are social beings, and we need connection with others – be it family, friends or even strangers. It’s that connection that drives us to live, laugh and love.
What do you think elders value most and how do you meet those needs?
I believe that the elderly value the basics of relationships - being heard, being acknowledged, and being cared about. They, as we all do, want to feel like they are in control of their lives and can still make decisions for themselves. When someone feels like they’ve lost all control, they have a sense of having lost themselves - and then what’s the point?
It's important to me to make sure that they are given options and that they can choose for themselves. This isn’t always easy for those living with Dementia but I believe there are always ways to mindfully treat someone with dignity, patience and kindness no matter what situation they’re in.
What's your perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon?
My perfect Sunday is to laze around, spending time with my family and walking my dog. I also love spending some unhurried time at my favourite spot for a cup of tea.
Scones with jam and cream or butter?
All of the above! The richer, the better!