Sisters Marlene, Magdel and Sharon


 1. What is your name?

Sr Malene van Deventer, Staff Magdel Louw and Sr Sharon Zaayman

2. Which hospice do you work for?

Breede River Hospice

3. What do you do there?

We are part of the Palliative Care Team.

4. How long have you been there?

Apart from Sr Sharon, the other two have been with the organisation for more than 10 years.


1. What gives you the greatest fulfilment?

It is such an overwhelming feeling to see the difference you make in each person’s life. The manner in which the patient and family receive you at their home. The “thank you’s that you get. The smile when you enter or leave the room of the patient, especially when at the last visit you couldn’t even get a smile or the patient didn’t have the energy to speak.

On the last visit of Sr Malene, the little boy at home cried when she had to leave, he just wanted to know when she is coming back again.

2. What do you find the most challenging?

It is often the areas that one has to go to and the street names and the difficulty finding the streets. Also challenging is the fact that many families do not understand the illness or what their loved ones are going through, and how to handle it.

3. What do you think people find the most challenging about a life-threatening diagnosis?

●        The fact that they don’t understand why their life is now being shortened by an illness.

●        Some people have not fulfilled their bucket list (their wishes and dreams).

●        For some men, their role as a provider is being affected. They feel as though they are now “worthless”- not able to provide for their families and a sense of uselessness is experienced.

●        Different cultures have different ways of dealing with life threatening illnesses.

4. What do you think that you personally bring to your job that reflects who you are as a person?

We love what we do and we are passionate about our work. With a positive attitude and the kind of team that we work with, it also makes our daily tasks even more enjoyable. We also try as far as we can to keep to a promise if we’ve made one.

5. How do you take care of your own health and balance?

Sr Sharon – goes out and enjoys life. She loves gardening and doing different things to take her mind off from work.

Sr Malene – very difficult to separate work from her personal life.

Sr Magdel – regular exercise, enough sleep and loves baking, sewing and just being creative.

6. What is your advice to anyone else wishing to join your profession?

Palliative Care is not always easy. You don’t always switch off or leave things at work because sometimes you end up attending to a patient after hours.

You will not be able to heal anyone, that is not what palliative care is about but rather being there for there for the patient and their family in a time when they need you most.

You are there to assist with the relief of pain and symptoms. You are also there to make a difference emotionally.

7. What is your advice to anyone given a life-threatening diagnosis?

Don’t stop living. Don’t stop doing the things you love if you are still able to do it.

Being diagnosed is not a death sentence.

8. What is your advice to the loved ones of anyone who is given a life-threatening diagnosis?

Just give love and support. Just be there. If the patient normally cleaned the house or garden and now are not able to do so, get someone to fulfil that role to take the burden from the patient. It is something less to worry about and will give the patient the peace of mind that things are taken care of.

Just be there.

9. How do your loved ones feel about the work that you do?

They often think that the work we do is not rewarding, and in many cases refer to money/ salary but what they don’t understand is that this is where we want to be. Here we are making a difference. He we feel valued and respected. Yes, there are occasions when we feel exhausted and just need a break too but we love what we do. No money can replace the feeling that is inside of you when you see your patient and their family, when you walk away and get a smile and also when you return on a next visit and they missed you.

10. What do you like the most about the hospice that you work with?

We don’t receive patients, we go out to them, to their place of residence. It’s lovely driving out to our patients, whether in town, on a farm or informal settlement. It just makes us connect with them on a different level seeing the way they live, experiencing their circumstances and often short comings. Having that connection with your patients is irreplaceable.

Working for Breede River Hospice also gives us peace of mind…It’s a relaxed atmosphere. Nobody is pushing you. Everything you do is at your own pace because each patient is different.

The Palliative Care Team at Hospice are also very supportive of each other and we can really count on each other and be there for each other.

11. Do you have a “motto” that you tend to live by that you would like to share?

Yes, our slogan is “Turning compassion into action” and this is what we live by every day. It is so nice making a difference in someone’s life.