Thanks to the number of individuals that have completed Bergzicht Training and Development’s Health and Frail Programme over the last few months, families in the Boland region are now able to access the services of professionally trained, trustworthy carers and companions who are vetted by the Stellenbosch-based NGO.

Bergzicht Training and Development is an NGO dedicated to developing the skills of poor, unemployed, unskilled and semi-skilled individuals from communities in the Western Cape through its skills development programmes and courses.

Over the last few years, many elderly individuals have chosen to retire in Stellenbosch and Somerset West, leading to an upsurge in the demand for quality, home-based carers in these areas. In addition, many families with ill children are unable to find reliable carers that are skilled in taking care of their children, but also have the patience and compassion to work with these children.

With the incidences of elderly and child abuse we have seen of individuals placed in the care of private carers, it is vital to know what to look for in a health and frail carer, says Mr Adrian Bezuidenhout, Training Manager at Bergzicht Training and Development.

“Some of the skills that a carer should have include basic First Aid skills, an understanding of good nutrition, knowledge of how to assist a frail individual with their mobility, knowledge on how to provide personal care as well as take care of their client’s hygiene and mental health. In addition, they also need to have soft skills such as the ability to remain calm under trying circumstances, heaps of patience, resilience, a friendly, approachable nature, and good communication skills. We also encourage our graduates to offer care to the persons they are looking after without disempowering the person they are taking care of.”

While some of the graduates that complete the programme go on to work at old age homes and retirement villages, many more end up working with the elderly and children, including babies, in private homes.

“All our students undergo a criminal background check as the safety and security of the families and individuals that employ our graduates are of utmost importance to our organisation. We also do follow-up visits or telephone calls to find out if clients are still happy with the carers or companions they have employed and if there are any areas they would like the carers or companions to improve on.”

For the last few years since her graduation, Stellenbosch resident Janet Damane has been working as a private carer taking care of elderly individuals at La Cleménce, a luxury retirement village in Stellenbosch, as well as a couple in Die Boord and many others in need of private care.

The most important qualities needed to take care of others, says Damane, are love and patience.

“When you look after a frail or sick patient, they need your love, patience and care. It’s not only about a salary or about the status that your uniform brings, but it’s all about what is in your heart. You should never do this kind of job out of desperation, but rather because it is your passion.”