Mildred Swanepoel, 69, affectionately known as Aunty Milli, suffered a stroke in August last year which severely weakened the right side of her body.
Aunty Milli suffers from hypertension and cholesterol, and eventually, due to her condition and home circumstances, became depressed.
She was treated by Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital after the stroke and was referred to the Western Cape Government Health and Wellness Mitchell’s Plain Intermediate Care (MPIC) facility for six weeks to receive rehabilitation care.
She did not finish her treatment after requesting to leave as she longed to be home.
“I was not in the right mental space. After I was discharged from the hospital after having the stroke, I could not move and was bedridden for weeks. My one daughter works, and I had to wait for my family to come and take care of me. I’m a very independent person and I felt helpless and depressed,” she said.
She needed a 26-inch wheelchair to be mobile, due to being a bariatric (obese) patient so it was challenging, said Ruwayda Hull, occupational therapist for the Department of Health and Wellness in Mitchell’s Plain.
“I was losing hope, I lost a lot of weight, I was left alone at home and became even more depressed, and prayed to the Lord to send help,” said Aunty Milli.
She was unable to attend community activities. She could not bake anymore which is what she loved to do and the situation at home was weighing on her mental health.
Rehabilitation care worker (RCW) Robin Harker from Arisen Women, a contracted non-profit organisation with the department, conducted three sessions with her per week for two months at home.
Ms Harker moved in with her to commence with her recovery process. “At first it was not easy getting Mildred on the road to recovery because she was depressed and challenged, but within two weeks we started getting her mobile and walking to the bathroom,” said Ms Harker.
With Ms Harker’s help, and the support of the rehabilitation team from the department, Aunty Milli is walking on her own, and taking better care of her health, baking again, visiting her neighbours in the street, and becoming more sociable.
Her weight loss has resulted in her now fitting into a 20-inch wheelchair.
Mental health is a huge challenge in Mitchell’s Plain and is seen in many forms such as Aunty Milli’s struggles. During Mental Health Month in October, they are placing even further emphasis on the importance of mental well-being, encouraging people to make use of the social worker and mental health nurse at the Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre.
Their home-based care teams conduct home visits for people requiring care who are unable to access their local healthcare facility due to being bedridden or having disabilities which prevent them from accessing healthcare services.
The Department’s Rehabilitation or Home-Based Care Services team can be contacted via email on DoH.email@example.com or telephonically at 021 370 5000. For more mental health information visit www.westerncape.gov.za/service/mental-health-services-western-cape.