HACT’s Respite Unit is a 24-bed facility offering around-the-clock care to people in advanced stages of AIDS. The majority of our patients are bed-ridden and are suffering from opportunistic infections such as meningitis, TB and pneumonia. We also accept palliative cancer patients who have no one to care for them at home.
Othandweni means ‘a place of love’, and there could not be a more fitting name for our Respite Unit. The facility is staffed by our dedicated team of home-based carers who have all been carefully selected and trained by HACT. They in turn are managed by a small group of qualified nurses and doctors.
It takes an extraordinary individual to care for the very sick and dying, which is why every member of our small team has been hand-picked to ensure they have the right mix of skills and dedication. Many of our home-based carers have themselves lost loved ones to HIV/AIDS so they know just how important it is to show their patients and their families empathy and compassion. Our on-site carers and nurses provide love and care to all patients admitted to the unit, giving them bed baths, helping them take their medication, reading to them, dressing wounds, feeding them, and providing one-on-one passive exercise sessions.
“The people at Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust act as a family to anyone who comes here or works here. I am proud to part of this family cause without them who knows what would have happened to me.”
HACT Respite Unit Patient
Though the majority of our patients arrive at the Unit on death’s door, we are thankful that most of them are able to regain strength, recover, and be discharged, ready to carry on with normal life. We attribute this to the high quality of care and also the love that our team provides. While our home-based carers nurse these patients back to health, our auxiliary staff help them to access disability grants so that when they are discharged, they have a small income on which to support themselves while they get back on their feet.
The Respite Unit also provides respite care for people who are ill due to AIDS but whom have a caregiver (often a family member or neighbour) providing care for them. To give the caregiver a rest, we will take in the patient for a period of time, and thereafter they will return home to be cared for. We also take patients who have a specific medical symptom that needs to be treated in a controlled and clinical setting – such as a runny stomach or dehydration.
Finally, for those that are in the final stages of AIDS or have terminal cancer and are not able to recover, our Respite Unit provides a home away from home enabling these patients to die peacefully and with respect. It is important to our staff who love and care for these patients during their final days, that they are remembered which is why we have a beautiful Memory Wall in the garden at the back of our Centre where each and every one of the patients that we have lost, are remembered.
“We often get asked how we can do this work but it is actually a privilege to be able to nurse patients back from the brink of death and witness them go on to live fulfilled lives with their families. I would not chose to work anywhere else.”
Julie Hornby, HACT’s Nursing Services Manager