Category: Care

HospiceWits NWTS Lounge Edition brings stars together for a good cause

The annual HospiceWits Night with the Stars fashion show and fundraiser has become a mainstay of this organisation’s fundraising efforts, each year bringing together scores of celebrities, artists and top South African fashion royalty. The purpose of the event is twofold: raising awareness about the important work that HospiceWits does, and raising funds that are crucial to ensure that these services continue.

Over the past years, the HospiceWits Night with the Stars has brought more than 100 celebrities, newsmakers, musicians, and fashion houses and designers together for a fashion showcase that not only lets the light fall on the importance of end-of-life care, but also provides an opportunity to see entertainment and the amazing designs of the who’s who of fashion on a catwalk that has become legendary.

While this event is one of the most important on HospiceWits’ fundraising calendar, organising and producing the show in the traditional way was not possible this year, in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak. An initiative was proposed to ensure that the event was kept alive in 2020 – albeit in a different set-up.

The 7th edition of HospiceWits Night with the Stars saw more than 200 celebrities, actors, musicians and fashion designers take to the online sphere, and specifically Instagram, to get their message of support out. This also meant that the event’s reach extended a bit further than it might have in its original format, letting the public experience the digital fundraiser straight from their living rooms – hence the decision to call this years NWTS the “Lounge Edition”.

Said HospiceWits CEO, Jacqui Kaye, “This is a really exciting new concept. We wanted to keep the event alive in 2020 by celebrating the first six years of the show. The initiative allowed us to do just that under the circumstances of a new normal, and I’m really happy that we were able to appreciate the involvement of so many supporters on this platform. I believe it will reach a wider audience, and from that point of view, we are excited to see how many people get involved in this event.”

Among the big names were Lady Zamar, Pabi Moloi, Brümilda van Rensburg, David Tlale, Gert-Johan Coetzee, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Marcia Barret of the popular music group Boney M. Using their social media reach, these collaborators took to their Instagram accounts to raise awareness and appeal to their followers to donate to HospiceWits.

The HospiceWits Night with the Stars Lounge Edition took place on Tuesday, 28 July from 18:00 to 22:00. While the numbers are still being crunched and may change, it’s safe to say the NWTS Lounge Edition campaign reached more than 200 000 Instagram users on the night.

This fashion collaboration may be over until next year, but you are still welcome to donate to HospiceWits to support the critical and quality work offered to patients in the comfort of their own homes by this organisation, which is entirely reliant upon support from the public. Any donation helps, and you can donate in a variety of ways by clicking here.

As an NGO, HospiceWits is also always in dire need of volunteers to offer their time in service of our patients – please contact us if you would like to get involved.

Sihlangene stands together for mental health

In isiZulu, the word “sihlangene” means “we stand together”. Now, more than ever, this sentiment rings true, and especially during the challenging times we are currently facing due to the Covid-19 breakout, being united is key to our mental and physical wellbeing.

In this regard, HospiceWits recognised the need to put together a psychosocial service team that could render their services on a broader scale, assisting employees of HospiceWits, as well as its clients, their families and communities that require mental healthcare services.

Sihlangene is a specialist psychosocial team comprising a qualified general practitioner with a postgraduate specialist qualification in palliative medicine, a psychiatric nurse specialist and a diverse group of counsellors hailing from various training backgrounds and with varied experience. Experienced frontline workers, management and coordinators involved with the Hospice Association of the Witwatersrand, and a close collaborative partner who manages our day-to-day operations round out the team.

Together, this group of experts allows Sihlangene to provide the highest quality of mental care services, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief, loss and bereavement
  • Fear
  • Spiritual distress
  • Domestic violence
  • Stress
  • Fatigue and burnout syndrome
  • Family problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Quality of life and vitality
  • Quality of death and dying in life-threatening illnesses
  • Dementia and family support
  • General healthcare counselling
  • Home-based care counselling
  • Palliative care counselling
  • Hospice care counselling
  • Combating negative coping strategies
  • Holistic mental health education and coaching, focused on psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing as a whole
  • Mindfulness and alternative approaches to holistic health

Sihlangene’s services utilise a variety of methodology and approaches and offer one-on-one counselling or family meetings at its offices, as well as online remote counselling via Skype or Zoom and telephonic and WhatsApp support.

If you would like to find out more about Sihlangene’s services, please contact our office on 011 483 9100 or send an email to

Hospice caregiving: An ancillary healthcare worker’s account

More than 125 full-time staff make up HospiceWits’ cavalry of care – these include doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and spiritual counselors. HospiceWits is exceedingly grateful to every healthcare worker and volunteer that is responsible for assisting us in caring for patients who are terminally ill. These selfless people have spent years gaining experience, and are central to providing quality care to the patients who so direly need it.

If you’ve ever wondered about getting involved with an organisation like HospiceWits, please read on, and learn from one of our workers on the frontline. Shafiq Kara gives a rousing first-hand account of what it is like to provide care to the elderly, terminally ill and disabled.

Some reflections of good caregiving learnt from my ancillary healthcare worker training at the Palliative Care HospiceWits Training Centre and my volunteer service at HospiceWits, Houghton

Shafiq Kara

Providing care to elderly, terminally ill or disabled family members is more of a calling than an actual career. It is a selfless vocation, which demands both training and self-preparation. Daily activities range from bathing, feeding, grooming, cleaning and taking medicine, to offering companionship and overseeing physical health, emotional and safety needs. Since not everyone is cut out for such responsibilities, it requires one to give their best to be effective. While I do have intensive training from the HospiceWits Training Centre, and have gained hands-on experience with actual patients at the Houghton hospice facility in Johannesburg, I feel a truly entrusted caregiver should expand their knowledge and skillset to carry out their daily duties. From my personal life experience, I have read training manuals on the holistic approach of caregiving and have had the honour to successfully complete my first aid level 1, 2, 3 and firefighter courses from the National First Aid Academy.

From my training I have learned that a good caregiver must be empathetic and compassionate to foster a genuine relationship with the patient. Being a family member to them makes them feel secure and nurtured, especially when the patient has been neglected by his/her own family. Some accept this harsh, miserable reality, but deep inside it is really agonizing. You can start by asking about their interests, sharing stories, or engaging in certain activities together, such as watching a particular show or listening to music. Upon relating to them, they will start to open up, and it can make visits more enjoyable for both parties.

It may sound too cliché, but patience is a virtue. This holds true especially in the caregiving career. Your patience will be tested to the edge, even to the point of burnout – which can be expected when taking care of the elderly, disabled or terminally ill persons. Such strenuous demands require a certain fortitude, and it takes a very special kind of person to choose this line of work as a career. As a good caregiver, I will tell you that planning ahead is key to keeping your sanity. Try setting some time aside each week for future planning. By knowing everything about your client – from medical condition to background – you will be able to get an idea on how to deal with them with composure, and provide the needed care and support.

Due to age, disability and illness a patient may have the tendency to communicate and comprehend poorly, which is why they are looking for someone to assist them in the first place. An effective caregiver can explain freely and conveniently how things are supposed to be done. Some clients may be harder to deal with, but do not forget that they have illnesses that impair them, and they do not possess the vigor they used to have.

Since I will be spending ample amounts of time with them, I should be able to assist in keeping them calm and comfortable. If they have relatives, I have to keep them updated by keeping the lines of communication open about any changes in their relative’s care plan or condition. Problem-solving is a vital part of providing care to another person, and requires excellent communication skills, as well as being a good team player – involving all the necessary parties to make the right decisions is key to providing good care. Recording and reporting are also very important for the good caregiver.

Dependability is a combination of many qualities that a caregiver must possess, but in the real world, it is not as ideally fancy as it may seem. While you know at this point that taking care of a patient will be demanding, if you do not have the passion to do it for a long time, you will eventually lose motivation and the will to proceed further. You need to bear in mind that these needs are not similar to someone who has a fever or the flu, so make sure you are prepared to do this long-term. Be organised, polite, punctual, trustworthy, attentive, selfless, professional, be clean, manage your time well, be observant and have a passion for the work. Look after yourself so you are able to look after others.

The future is uncertain, and, as a caregiver, I might have to deal with circumstances that are way beyond my control at certain times. It may involve doing something out of the box, or could be purely instinctive. The important thing here is discernment. I must be perceptive and be able to judge a situation accordingly to execute proper action. After a period of getting to know the patient, a good caregiver should be able to pick up on what is really happening, and use all the knowledge and training acquired to execute their role as a caregiver. This knowledge is gained by learning about the human body, anatomy and physiology, about common diseases, about treatment, about care, nutrition, hygiene, first aid, CPR, communication, technical medical and health terminology. Good caregivers must also learn about the equipment and tools used for care and must be able to ask for help from medical professionals and team members when required. I refer to my notes and manual, and educate myself to strive to give my best to all those that I serve, to ease their life journey and create holistically healthy people and communities.

The important part is to always read, watch video clips on caregiving, take more courses, and continuously educate and empower yourself about health and the human body. I try to be a better person as an individual and practice my values, morals and ethics to serve and become the best caregiver one would want to have by their side as an elderly, disabled or terminally ill person. I want to teach my peers and those I may assist to become future caregivers by leading by example.

Caring and compassion that knows no bounds: A tribute to Sr Judith Young

It is with extreme sadness that we share the news that Sister Judith Young recently passed away peacefully.

We are all devastated by the news that a friend and colleague, who fought a long battle with cancer, bravely trying to protect her family from her pain, and continuing to care and support her patients despite her illness, has died.

Sr Judith Young, one of our homecare nurses, who was at HospiceWits for 29 years, and who left the organisation in March 2019, was a very special, giving, nurturing and loyal person. Her patients and their families will remember her fondly, and everyone who participated in our annual Cyclethon at Melrose Arch will know that Judith cycled the full six or eight hours on the day to raise funds for HospiceWits.

She was a committed member of the homecare team, always going the extra mile, caring for her patients whenever they needed her, and ensuring she provided the quality homecare nursing that HospiceWits is proud of.

A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp …
because the dawn has come.

Everyone at HospiceWits sends our sincere condolences to her family and friends at this time of grief.

Take comfort in the fond memories you have of a special and unique person that always will be, Sister Judith Young.

We again share her words about her life’s work.

1. Please share with us a little about your life and nursing career.

I was born in Newcastle, England, and from my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a nurse. After graduating, I was persuaded by a good friend to come to South Africa, and arrived in May 1985 on a two-year contract to Morningside Clinic in Johannesburg. Soon thereafter, I met an Englishman and we subsequently got married. We have two sons and a daughter, all in their twenties. My two-year stay turned into 31 years!

2. What sparked your interest in end-of-life and palliative care?

On my last assignment as a student nurse at Newcastle General Hospital, I was placed in a chemotherapy/radiation ward. I fell in love with the concept of terminal care, and the challenges and rewards that came with it. Then later, while working for a specialist physician in Johannesburg, I was asked one day to decline an invitation to a HospiceWits function. As I rang the number I had an epiphany – it was as though a light bulb came on in my head! I duly declined the doctor’s invitation and got myself a job at HospiceWits.

3. Please share with us the challenges and rewards of your daily life.

Hospice work can be very challenging, as we are dealing with death and dying every day. We know our patients will not recover, but there is always something that can be done to improve their day-to-day living. It is a privilege to be welcomed into a patient’s home to share their final journey with them. We sometimes have to deal with angry families and patients – misplaced anger can be directed at the hospice nurse, making it hard not to take it personally. On the whole, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. To know that we have made a positive difference in the patient’s last few days – whether it’s due to counselling or symptom control – it makes the job so worthwhile.

4. What feeds your spirit?

I love music and reading – physical exercise is also important, so I attend gym regularly. My husband and children are very supportive and understand the nature of my work.

5. Can you share a story about your work that illustrates what you love about it?

I saw a young, 33-year-old male patient last week, who lived outside HospiceWits’ area of operation, but as there was no hospice availability, I was asked to assess his condition. I found a young man paralysed from the waist down and in severe pain. He desperately wanted to be able to work and drive again, and was living with his girlfriend and her two children, aged five and eight, respectively.

We decided to admit him to our in-patient unit for symptom control – his girlfriend was very stressed and exhausted, and was experiencing major financial problems as well. The patient was admitted the next morning – he sat in our carpark for 20 minutes before deciding to enter the unit. On admission, he looked terminal and was understandably anxious, but settled in very quickly. I was surprised to hear the following morning that he had passed away peacefully with his family around him. It seems as though he knew hospice was where he needed to be to let go. His family was very grateful for the care and support he received from HospiceWits. Cases like this one make all the hard work worthwhile


Here is how you can help HospiceWits

As a registered non-profit organisation, HospiceWits has been looking to the public to support the work we do for the four decades of our existence. Now, more than ever, we are reliant upon the generous support from both the public and corporate spheres.

While much of our country’s industries come back online in June, following the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, the work that HospiceWits does has gone on uninterrupted.

Rendering essential services, our healthcare workers have kept providing much needed support to the many patients in our care, despite the threat of the novel coronavirus. As your organisation starts doing its work again, please consider contributing to the work HospiceWits does – becoming one of our partners will be beneficial to both our organisations.

How corporates and individuals can assist us

Corporate organisations and individuals can become donors or sponsors in various ways:

  • Donate essential monthly items like pharmaceutical consumables, medication, food and toiletries (our wish list is a good guideline here, but we are grateful for any and all donations).
  • Donate your professional services.
  • Sponsor a ward in our in-patient unit.
  • Sponsor a home care vehicle.
  • Sponsor the repair and maintenance of the shaded car park.
  • Make HospiceWits one of your company’s CSI beneficiaries.
  • Encourage your employees to contribute directly from their salary via payroll giving.
  • Celebrate events like birthdays or wedding anniversaries by asking family and friends to make a donation to HospiceWits in your name instead of giving a traditional gift.

All donations are tax-deductible, and a Section 18A tax certificate can be emailed to donors or collected from our Houghton offices.

If you have a Woolies card or a MySchool, MyVillage or MyPlanet card, please nominate HospiceWits as one of your three chosen charity beneficiaries. Doing this will give a percentage of your purchase value back to HospiceWits every time you swipe your card.

Remember to link your Woolies cards to your MySchool card here – you’ll be contributing to our work every time you shop at Woolworths or at partner businesses, including Bidvest Waltons, Engen and

Discovery Vitality members who have listed Woolworths as their nominated food store will also ensure that HospiceWits benefits every time they swipe for healthy food purchases.

Become a monthly contributor and win!

A monthly commitment of just R50 per membership number makes you a part of Club 2000 and enters you into the monthly draw for one of seven cash prizes. The more numbers you take, the greater your chances! Every month, contributors stand a chance of winning:

1st prize: R20 000
2nd prize: R2000
3rd prize: R1000
4 x R500 prizes

Giving in the age of the coronavirus

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has put strain on just about every organisation out there. During this time we would be highly appreciative of donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our healthcare workers, as well as food donations for patients.

From 1 June, our charity shops will be open again, and in this regard, we kindly request that you donate any clothing or other goods to aid us in our fundraising efforts. Please also feel free to browse through the extensive collection of bits and bobs that are available in your nearest HospiceWits charity shop.

As all our other fundraising events are on hold for the foreseeable future in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak, our charity shops, together with donations from the public and corporate sectors will keep us afloat in this time. It is thanks to you that we are able to do our important work every day.

To find out more about how you can help, please contact HospiceWits on 011 483 9100, and choose the Fundraising/Events option, or send an email to

Death awareness and the coronavirus

As any terminal patient will tell you, the awareness of death often brings with it a far greater appreciation for life. It’s not that we don’t know our existence is finite, but rather that we don’t know when the finite comes to an abrupt end.

In his final column for The New York Times before his passing, the author and neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote quite profoundly of his newfound awareness that his life wasn’t over, upon receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.

“On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight,” Sacks wrote.

Researchers have found that this type of reaction is common: very often, our perception of just how much (or how little) time we have left dictates the way we spend it. Realising that we are, indeed, impermanent beings often makes us appreciate the little moments and the people close to us so much more.

Of course, not everyone reacts this way when they learn that they or someone close to them is terminally ill. Aside from leading to reflection about our lives and the people in them, the knowledge of impending death may also cause feelings of anxiety, which can lead to self-protective, self-righteous behaviour. When one is faced with death, many people have a much higher regard for self-preservation and the protection of their own.

Suffice it to say, the Covid-19 crisis has brought death into much sharper view for a large group of people. No longer is the threat of our own expiration something far off: the coronavirus has brought this threat right to our doors.

Even if the thought of our own death or the passing of those we are close to is something most of us prefer not to think about too much, the topic is worth exploring, as it may well turn our attention to improving the quality of our lives. Ultimately, we may choose to view death as something that induces anxiety and makes it difficult to live our lives to the full, or as something that makes us appreciate every breath and opportunity we have to take.

Are you struggling with anxiety related to the coronavirus lockdown or are you battling to deal with a family member’s terminal diagnosis in the face of Covid-19? The psychosocial team at HospiceWits can assist you with online counselling services. Reach out by contacting Pauline (011 483 9100) or Francois (071 970 0576).

What you should know about care and support that HospiceWits continues to provide during the Covid-19 outbreak

As the guardians of palliative care in South Africa, hospices are faced with a new and rapidly escalating challenge – how best to care for palliative patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the mission of hospices – “to promote quality in life, dignity in death and support in bereavement to all persons living with a life-threatening illness by supporting the patient and their family members” – coupled with the fact that Covid-19 in critical and end-of-life stages is undisputedly a global life-threatening disease, it is incumbent on HospiceWits to support our patients and to provide appropriate and safe care and support to persons living with Covid-19, whilst safeguarding the health of hospice staff.

Palliative care is not only end-of-life care, but is an interdisciplinary team approach that improves the quality of life of patients (adults or children) and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems – physical, psychosocial and spiritual. It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a person receives treatment directed at the disease.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has had an impact on every part of our lives. HospiceWits continues to provide end-of-life care, albeit with extra precautions to keep our patients, as well as our staff safe. If you or a family member has a life-threatening illness and is in need of hospice care, here is what you should take note of.

• The Intake Department continues to provide telephonic guidance and, where a patient fits the criteria of hospice, registration as a hospice patient.

• The same guidelines surrounding social distancing during the different phases of the national lockdown are applicable to patients receiving palliative care. A hospice patient may be more at risk of contracting Covid-19 due to the conditions they have, therefore an active Patient Care Plan that includes pain management, a symptom and an infection control plan will be put in place.

• The most effective infection control measure is to avoid persons with Covid-19. However, this may not be possible for the HospiceWits team, so every precaution has been put in place to ensure the safety of the interdisciplinary team (the doctor, homecare nurse, social worker and in-patient nursing team).

• It is recommended that if a member of the team is caring for a patient who is known to have Covid-19, then that homecare nurse should provide care to a patient telephonically, referring them through the DOH pathway for treatment.
• Advanced care planning is of particular importance, as strain on the country’s national health service is likely to increase as more coronavirus patients start requiring hospital admittance for the condition.

Rest assured that the HospiceWits staff adheres to all the guidelines set out by government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, though, under lock down level 4 our charity shops are only permitted to sell winter stock. All fundraising events planned for the foreseeable future have been put on hold or cancelled.

Please consider donating your pre-loved winter goods (collections are permitted) and/or funds, as our work as a registered NPO is extremely dependent on support from the public and corporate spheres.

Here is where you can help.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

People often regard hospice care and palliative care in the same light, and although these two types of patient care do have a lot in common, it is useful to mention the differences.

The history of palliative care

While the concept of this type of care has a storied history, estimated to date as far back as 1065, when the ill and dying en route to and from the Holy Land were looked after in Malta, the first modern hospices were established by a British registered nurse who dedicated her life to medical social work. Dame Cicely Saunders recognised the need for a patient-centred, holistic approach for patients with terminal conditions, which was rooted in a belief that every human being should live with a “sense of fulfilment and a readiness to let go”.

Saunders’ model took into account all the needs of patients who face the end of their lives and, as such, the palliative care provided at modern hospices focuses on physical distress, as well as emotional and spiritual issues, with maximum comfort for the patient being the ultimate goal.

How palliative care and hospice care are different

Palliative care refers to the management of the symptoms associated with chronic and life threatening illness, while also helping patients and their loved ones deal with the psychological and emotional aspects associated with a serious diagnosis.

Palliative care, according to the World Health Organization’s definition thereof, neither aims to hasten or postpone death, rather focusing on enhancing a patient’s quality of life. Palliative care may be provided early in the course of an illness, and is often given in conjunction with other therapies that focus on prolonging life, like radiation and chemotherapy.

Hospice care incorporates all the principles of palliative care into its practices from diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, but is more specifically focused on patients that have received a prognosis of six months or less to live. While palliative care can be provided at any stage of an illness, hospice care helps patients and their families to manage the end-of-life stage in particular.

How you can help

Since 1979 HospiceWits has taken a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to caring for patients in Johannesburg and Soweto. We believe in preserving the quality of life of our patients for as long as they need it, while also providing support to the loved ones of the patients in our care. Our more than 100 full-time staff includes the interdisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, psychologists, social workers and counsellors.

HospiceWits is a registered NPO, and we are fully reliant on fundraising efforts and donations to keep doing this important work. We invite corporates and individuals to support us by donating here.