Care for the elderly confreres in St. Charles, Heythuysen (PE nr 1090 – 2018/04)

This article offers information about the team of lay people at the service of elderly confreres in St. Charles, Heythuysen. The team is composed of three ladies: One coordinator, Jose Hendriks, and two contact-persons Annie Keijsers and Marian Timmermans.

From left to right: Annie Keijsers, Jose Hendriks, Marian Timmermans

It is a pleasure for me to describe my experiences in my function as Coordinator of the White Fathers community in St. Charles.

The care for the material interests of the community and the spiritual and physical well-being of the confreres are at the core of our job. First and foremost comes our personal contact with the Missionaries of Africa in Heythuysen. We are also responsible for the external contacts such as with the local GP, the Local Council, the relatives, or the Land van Horne Institution which provides the overall care and from which we rent the flats.

In order to fulfil, as best as possible, the above mentioned core tasks, it was important in the beginning, that we got to know the White Fathers as such, their needs and wishes with regard to community life for instance. We therefore thought it of great importance to create an atmosphere in which the community could flourish, and which responds to their needs.

Their confidence in us had to grow; this happened in a natural way by our readiness to be of assistance to them.

The Situation

The Dutch Sector has only one community; it is St. Charles in Heythuysen. 36 White Fathers live in this community. Their average age is 82.8 years.

St. Charles is a complex of 79 flats with in-house care facilities, of which the White Fathers rent 36.The Land van Horne Institution owns the building and provides the overall care.

Each confrere lives in his own flat. We try to let them live as independently for as long as possible with appropriate help.

The meals are taken together in the restaurant. In this restaurant, a section is reserved for the confreres. Three times a day they meet to enjoy their meals together. In the course of the morning and afternoon they can have a coffee/tea break together; it is their meeting-place.

Each day there is the Eucharist at 9.30 in the morning and vespers at 17.00 hours. Adoration takes place every Sunday.

To receive confreres living outside the community or who are still in Africa, we are renting three guest-rooms. These are at our disposal for the whole year, and are frequently used; not only by confreres but also by relatives and friends of the WFs.

The front of the house at Heythuysen as it was a few years ago

Care and Help

The Coordination team arranges transport for the sick, makes medical appointments, organises outings, maintenance of the house, contacts with relatives and discusses any issues with the care-providers, and the domestic staff. The coordinator and contact-persons are informed about appointments with the local GPs and specialists and if needs be, one of them accompanies the confrere to his appointment. The Team also makes requests for more skilled care and for all sorts of supporting equipment. Some confreres are able to drive themselves to appointments or are driven by a volunteer. However, we do notice that confreres are getting older and less mobile.  We have to watch out that they will not overtax themselves, as they all are getting on in age.

All the confreres in St. Charles receive domestic help to clean their flat. For most of them, the expenses are reimbursed by the Local Council. We have to apply for them to be registered and the Land van Horne Institute will provide the personnel if the application is granted.

Regarding personal care, a number of confreres are totally autonomous and do not need help. For those who do need help, we can apply for help and again the Institute will provide the personnel if the help is granted. For this too, we have to pay a contribution, the rest is paid by the health insurance or the government. It is one of our tasks to keep the registrations up to date, or when more care is needed to ensure that the appropriate measures are provided.

Self-sufficiency is promoted by the government. Health-care in the Netherlands has become too expensive, and is becoming more so every year. One is expected to live independently at home for as long as possible, and that’s why people is starting to take better care of their health, with good diets and supplements from sites as Still people are growing older and needing more care and attention, and Government subsidies are getting less.

The confreres help one another but due to their age, this is getting harder and more demanding. This means that we feel a great responsibility towards the community especially in these times when people are needed who will notice what is required, and who will take the necessary steps.

The jubilarians at Heythuysen on the 29th June 2017

Our Experience

Now, after having worked here for 8 years, I can say that we, Annie, Marian and I, have got a good bond with the White Fathers. We have become part of the scenery and trusted contact-persons. More and more we are becoming part and parcel of their daily lives in St. Charles. We feel accepted and respected, and confident to continue on the road taken.

This work is giving us a lot of satisfaction, because we are able to be close to people and to be of direct service to our fellowmen; particularly so to this special group of men who have always been at the service of others. We feel it as a privilege to be allowed to do so; we keep learning more every day, and it is enriching our own lives.

Jose Hendriks

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