The Living Cornerstone was founded upon a deep need perceived by Gilda Scammell while working with Sedge Mobile Meals. This project of hers involved cooking and delivering meals to old and frail needy people in the community. It made her aware of a number of underprivileged / lower income residents in various stages of dementia - a general name given to a group of conditions indicating the impairment of at least two brain functions such as memory loss and confusion over time and place.
Many of these folk were living by themselves frightened and insecure as their daily life became confusing and meaningless, destroyed by an affliction they could not tame or control.
In circumstances governed by financial constraints, the families involved could not afford the cost of getting a caregiver in to look after their loved one. Consequently such sufferers were frequently left to their own devices during the day. Some of these folk wandered off and got lost. Some were confined to a locked up house or even worse a locked room. Some showed signs of sexual abuse. Gilda came across many sad cases in our little village alone and says there are many more unknown cases out there.
Her compassion for these people made her determined to find a way to help them and in February 2008, The Living Cornerstone was born of a vision in her heart. After wrestling with many ways to materialize it, in May 2013 she rented a house at 18 Swallow Drive. It started as a day care centre Monday to Friday but by the end of the month the house had become a 24/7 care centre for people with Dementia.
At that stage there were 4 full care and 1 day care persons. Swallow house was only a 2-bedroom home but the rooms were large and could accommodate 5 people comfortably. There were only 4 residents in this house due to the advanced stages the people were in. They needed extra care which 3 caregivers lovingly gave them during the day. There were 2 caregivers on duty at night.
The 2nd house at 12 Swift Street opened 6 months later in December 2013. This was a 3-bedroom home that could accommodate 6 people. Here again, it was an older house with large rooms. 4 caregivers attended the occupants during the day and 2 at night. The residents in this house ranged from 66 to 96. All were in different stages of Dementia.
Again after 6 months there was such a great need that a 3rd house situated at 14 Blue Gill Street was found and rented in May 2014. Being large it accommodated 9 people. There were 4 single rooms, 1 double room and a very large room with 3 beds in it. The house was manned by 4 - 5 caregivers during the day and 2 -3 caregivers at night. The caregiver complement depended on the needs of the residents (like a blind man at Blue Gill house.)
Update 2020: When 14 Blue Gill came onto the market, the Lombardi Family Trust stepped in so that this important home would remain the vital refuge it had become for Dementia sufferers. The Trust purchased it for TLC and on Friday 6 September 2019, it was transferred into The Living Cornerstone's name.
TLC Board appointed December 2021 - photo The Edge 8 June 2022
Sadly, the Covid years had a marked effect on The Living Cornerstone Charity and now only the Blue Gill house remains as a facility for those with Dementia. It can house up to 10 residents with some people sharing rooms and others able to have their own rooms.
The house has a manager, Marietjie Digue, two sisters, Sr Lucie and Sr Carina, 15 caregivers to manage the day and night shifts, 2 cleaners and a cook.
Gilda, in her 70s retired from TLC in 2021. At an AGM held in December, a board was elected by the Sedgefield Community to manage the vital role this NPO contributes to Sedgefield.
Gilda leaves a legacy in the Blue Gill home that lives on with a team that is committed to continue providing a safe and caring shelter for Dementia sufferers which she proved was so needed in this community.
Fund raising is always a major task for charities and The Living Cornerstone is no exception. The Board and their supporters put in a lot of effort to keep this small but vitally important and much needed charity going.
Such is the caregivers' concern for their charges that even before Covid 19 struck, they themselves had initiated and organised a successful Recycled Fashion Show to raise funds for The Living Cornerstone.
Many people who personally have experienced a family member or friend with Dementia know that caring for them is not easy. The 15 caregivers have a vital role to play at The Living Cornerstone where the quality of life of the residents depends on the understanding and patience of the caregivers dealing with them.
Being a Dementia caregiver working under mentally taxing conditions is a highly intensive pressurized 24/7 job. The caregivers require special training to deal with the difficulties that can arise with their charges. Aggression is a stage of the disease that caregivers need to understand. They can get kicked, smacked, spat at, insulted and food thrown at them.
They can be accused of taking just about anything that residents themselves have hidden away. The specialised training is to help them cope with all of this and to keep focused on the person and not their seemingly poor behaviour which is an unfortunate consequence of the disease. The Garden Route Alzheimer's Carer Empowerment Centre in George comes through to Sedgefield on a regular basis reinforcing the training and providing emotional support to all involved.
Dementia can affect people at any age or stage of their lives. and it is a disease that affects the sufferer as well as their family and their caregiver. It is not easy to accept that your loved one is there in body but not in mind and eventually may not know who you are.
People find it difficult to cope with the unavoidable changes that occur in the sufferer. Mentally they suffer loss of memory, the power of cohesive thought and consequently, of being able to communicate.
Time loses its meaning – they don’t know day from night so they need 24 hour surveillance. They may do many irrational things – leave the stove on, switch off the fridge, walk around naked, invite strangers into their homes, hide food, accuse you of stealing from them etc. Physically, they forget how to eat, become incontinent, lose their depth perception so trip and fall very easily, etc.
The Living Cornerstone is there to help families and Dementia sufferers cope with the inevitable, to lighten the load and provide a secure environment where residents are provided with a loving, homely atmosphere.
The home is run on Godly principles - an orderly daily routine for the residents is in place served with love and kindness. This includes walks twice a day with a caregiver outside of the fenced property enabling residents some opportunities to interact with the community.
The Jura Care Village located in George, Western Cape, specializes in the 24 hour care of people with different forms of Dementia. With compassionate care, multi-professional service and an ever-growing knowledge in the field of Dementia, we welcome you to the Jura Care Village, Africa’s first specialized Dementia Care village.