EPILEPSY SOUTH AFRICA has a Residential Care Facility which accommodates 61 disabled adults with or without epilepsy in the Western Cape as one of only 6 such facilities in the country. The ages of the residents vary between 18 - 75 years. They try to create a home from home atmosphere and 24 - hour nursing care is available in a caring, low-stress environment.
Although we do have some residents with psychiatric conditions, we find that these are really hard to manage as most of our staff are not trained to handle psychiatric patients. It is true though that, apart from epilepsy, most of our residents and day-visitors are intellectually challenged and for this reason alone they would be at risk of being abused and exploited out there.
One of our clients who fit this profile is a young woman who had been sexually assaulted several times before being brought to us where she is now thriving in a safe environment and with people who have her interest at heart.
Another is a young man with epilepsy and a severe speech impediment who was viewed as a disgrace to his family. Before coming to us he was locked away in a back room when the family left for work in the morning and let out at night when they returned. Since having him admitted 11 years ago they have broken off all contact with him and have refused to even have him with them over the Xmas holidays. There are many more cases such as these.
An adult woman who recently spent time with her family said on her return that it was good visiting her sister but even better to return home to her family where she experiences a feeling of belonging and security. While institutionalisation should be combatted at all costs, the disabled individual's apparent uneasiness in an outside world impatient with their difficulties makes some of them prefer to be here.
The Epilepsy Centre and its services mean a lot to people who find it difficult to stand up for themselves. It is most rewarding to see how "outcasts" through no fault of their own, start thriving here in the atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement and living as normal a life as can be achieved thanks to their home away from home.
It is our experience that epilepsy is by no means regarded as a serious enough condition to "compete" with the devastation of Aids, abused children, orphans and animal abuse. However, those who live with epilepsy, and especially uncontrolled seizures, experience rejection, abuse, uncertainty, lack of opportunities, exclusion from many everyday activities such as driving, handling tools and machinery and most of all labelling by those in a more fortunate position as being abnormal.
On a daily basis, 24 profoundly disabled members are fetched from the surrounding informal communities in Knysna by free transport as day-visitors. Stimulation are provided and opportunities to socialise to combat boredom and possible abuse at home, whilst parents / family members are freed to pursue work on the open labour-market with the assurance that their child / sibling is cared for. A light lunch plus teatime snacks are provided.
There are 2 workshops on the premises to provide therapeutic activities to develop the participants to their full potential. The top workshop produces wooden garden products and the craft workshop recycled paper, greeting cards, needlework articles, woven mats and leatherwork. Presently a contract for the assembling of electrical units keeps most of the residents and day-visitors busy.
See our Sales brochure
The current vegetable garden is being transformed into an organic garden, which will provide fresh vegetables to the Centre and possibly deliver produce to local Supermarkets.
The Outreach Programme caters for the full spectrum of problems encountered by people with epilepsy in the communities. 97% of the programme covers people with a sub-economic income or no income at all in rural and informal communities where there are few services. Epilepsy SA's focus is on empowering individuals, families and communities to create a better environment for the person with epilepsy in the area from the Crags to Hoekwil near George. On invitation they will also visit George, Mossel Bay, Oudtshoorn and Beaufort-West.
As epilepsy is still regarded with a lot of stigma, myths and misconceptions, they need to create a great deal of awareness:
Talks are held at:
- Schools and in-service training to teachers to deal in a more informed way with the child with epilepsy.
- Clinics to make the waiting patients more aware of the facts of the condition.
- Employers / Employees to supply information on how to deal with seizures and be more sympathetic with the employee with epilepsy.
- Church - or other groups of people and the general public. Please let us know if you want to make use of this service, which is offered free of charge.
- Radio talks where possible. The next one will be broadcasted on Sunday, 30th July at 14:15 on RSG.
- Epilepsy-Week (19-25th June) is our main awareness drive every year so join in the fun and watch press for details.
Epilepsy SA have a social worker to council people and parents of children newly diagnosed with epilepsy and a visiting doctor from Cape Town, twice a year to evaluate peoples' uncontrolled seizures.
5 Support / Crafts Groups exist and any off-cuts of material, wool, etc for activities are needed.
Fundraising is essential for survival and any donations will be welcomed.
Please help! You can also help by buying our products made by the residents and day-visitors.