LeadSA Hero Award for Therapists Musical Intervention with the Elderly
The lives of hundreds of senior citizens living in Durban’s old age homes have been touched by a musical intervention introduced by UKZN-affiliated Occupational Therapist, Mrs Felicity Anne Crouch.
Crouch was recently named a LeadSA Hero for her unique project which involved residents at six old age homes taking part in a singing competition.
Each home organised a choir of "frail elders" to practice two songs and to learn the South African national anthem. Held in the Muthande Community Hall with lunch supplied by the eThekweni Municipality and the Office of the Premier in Pietermaritzburg, the competition was a resounding success!
Three hundred elders and staff from Muthande, Issy Geshen, John Dunn House, KwaMashu Christian Care home, and the Abalindi, Ekhanana and Zibabaleni old age homes attended.
The choirs lifted their voices and everybody enjoyed singing, dancing, and socialising with each other amid friendly competiveness.
Crouch said: ‘Many old age facilities do not employ occupational therapists or activity assistants and as a result, the frail are not involved in meaningful activity.’
Crouch, who lectures part-time in the Occupational Therapy Discipline at UKZN, works as Clinical Supervisor for first and second-year students. Now in private-practice and passionate about geriatrics, her work with the elderly extends to Tafta on Ridge, John Dunn House, Issy Geshen and the Outspan in Durban.
Crouch runs a stroke club fortnightly at Tafta on Ridge and also works two days a week at the Issy Geshen Old Age Home in Lamontville. Social workers often ask her to visit clients in their own homes which she does compassionately.
She recently championed the annual Tafta Stroke Awareness Walk on the Durban beachfront. ‘I initiated this project three years ago to encourage people who have suffered strokes to come to our beautiful beach front, meet others who have been through the same experience and to walk their own walk – whether it be a few steps or a long walk. It started with about 25 stroke survivors and this year’s numbers went up considerably.’
On the walk there were information tables for glucose and blood pressure testing set up by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Saint Giles Gymnasium and OTs from King Dinizulu Hospital who gave advice to participants.
Together with a partner, Crouch runs upskilling courses for carers at various elder care facilities in the greater Durban area. ‘We teach carers about the various medical conditions prevalent in the elderly population and how they can help these people. We also stress the importance of exercise and activities to keep elders active.
‘I love working with the elderly. They have so much to tell us… they have lived through so much history… but we need to take the time to listen to their stories.
‘Families need to take responsibility for their elders. So often when old frail people are admitted to a care facility and family members abandon them and expect the facility to take care of all their needs. Families need to be involved and to visit regularly.’
Crouch hopes to see the elderly’s singing competition grow from strength. ‘I felt very honoured to be nominated as a LEADSA Hero.’
News about her award was recently published in The Sunday Times and she hopes it made people more aware of the plight of the elderly.