A Letter from Inside A Care Facility In the Time of Coronavirus


One of our volunteers, Fred Roffey, is a resident at the Helen Keller Retirement Centre and wrote us this touching message during lock down.


Subject: Happy Easter!

Dear Karen & All Other Good People at DementiaSA

I do hope you and your families are all well. I am managing to survive at Helen Keller Retirement Centre, where we have been locked down well in advance of the national lockdown.

There are now a few signs that bartering may be on the cards here, as one lady – an avid knitter – has offered residents some toilet rolls in exchange for a particular colour of wool.

Otherwise, our retirement centre is well organised, with the catering and restaurant staff wearing white face masks and gloves while serving. Also, they are being allowed to sleep in because of taxi difficulties while getting to work.

We are all trained to sanitize our hands at mealtimes, and at other times. The dining-room table arrangements have been changed. There used to be six at each table – one at each end and with four inbetween. Now it is more like a hotel, with two at a table opposite each other. This allows for social distancing between each table.

We are in total lockdown because of the number of elderly people in the centre, and as you know they are the most vulnerable. The restrictions mean no visitors and not being able to leave the centre by foot or car.

Son Marc and Leesha, who also live in Pinelands, deliver goods when I need them. They leave them with the guard at the front entrance gate, where the goods are sanitized. I manage to speak to them through the bars at the gate.They phone regularly and use Skype now and again. Marc and Leesha and her sister Sanchiya continue to work at their various hospitals in Cape Town.

So in one way and another we all manage to keep in touch, as we are doing now.

My love and best wishes to you all for a happy Easter and after

Fred Roffey

(I miss Coffey with Roffey and friends at DementiaSA and the goodies from various people!)

We are hoping to be reunited at the office with all of our DementiaSA staff and volunteers soon. Stay safe and stay at home!

PS. My connection with DementiaSA taught me never to argue with or upset a dementia patient. This stood me in good stead when a friend asked me to visit his elderly wife with advanced dementia in the frail care section of the Helen Keller Retirement Centre. He couldn’t visit her because of the lockdown regulations.

I visited her several times, and I thought I was making a breakthrough on one occasion because she exclaimed “I know you!”  But that was all.

I mention this because some experts say that one in every two patients in frail care around the world has early dementia. This indicates the huge scale of the dementia problem.

Please remember the Helen Keller Centre has a monthly dementia support group meeting (that takes place when we are not “physical distancing”) on the first Wednesday of every month, where carers are welcomed with tea/coffee/biscuits. The meeting starts at 6pm at the Centre in Links Drive, Pinelands.