Palm Gardens not as charming

Romila Chetty, Sea Point

In your 27 July issue of the Atlantic Sun, as part of your Retirement Feature you carried a piece on Palm Gardens. It feels like a “charming gracious vintage five-star hotel” with a “comprehensive safety net”.

Also high praise for their newly renovated care facility, managed by a “top class Nursing Manager” and “manned by Enrolled Nurses and carers around the clock”.

An attractive description indeed for anyone looking at care options. My recent personal experience, however, is a grief-stricken reality created by a place which couldn’t be further removed from this utopian picture.

With serious reservations I finally agreed to having my 89-year-old husband (Rajendra), afflicted with advanced Parkinsons admitted into the frail care facility on 27 October 2022. He seemed happy and said he liked the place.

On admission I enquired if we could install a nanny cam in his room. This was refused on the grounds that it would constitute an “invasion of privacy”.

Initially I visited Raj every day and each time I saw something I was unhappy about, I gave Palm Gardens the benefit of the doubt.

On Monday March 6 I fed him lunch that I had prepared and left a few hours later. I was unable to visit him on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I received a call from Palm Gardens saying that an ambulance had been called and he was going to the ER at the Cape Town Mediclinic.

Of course I was in shock and rushed to the scene. I was devastated when I heard that the carer had forgotten to remove his bottom denture on Tuesday after lunch. It became loose and lodged at the back of his mouth.

He struggled all night with the stuck denture. The response was that the carer looked everywhere in the room and could not find it!

I subsequently asked for the attending physician’s report from the ER. It said that he had choked on his denture, vomited and aspirated.

It led to aspiration pneumonia, which finally led to his death a week later on 16 March 2023. Meetings were held with Palm Gardens and the social worker. They agreed it was carer negligence and apologies were offered, but this did little to assuage my pain.

I learned also that the beautiful gardens they boast are not for the frail who are treated like second class citizens and hidden from the view of the other “normal” residents in case they should be an assault on the latters’ sensibilities.

Instead, the frail are relegated to the back of the house, hidden away in a small dingy “den” with a hazardously inclined approach, a far cry from the opulence of the main lounge in front.

I recall an occasion when I arrived at lunch time and decided to feed Rajendra. It was a beautiful sunny day, and with permission we wheeled him out to eat on the front lawn.

There was nobody else in the garden at the time. We had him seated at the table, and just as he opened his mouth and I was about to feed him the sister in charge came running out and said he could not eat there as it was not allowed for the frail care patients.

We had to take him back inside. Imagine his humiliation!

Sure I will give Palm Gardens five stars… for negligence, incompetence and profiteering.

  • Palm Gardens general manager, Tatum Swart, responds:

We offer our sincere condolences to Mrs Chetty and the Chetty family during their time of loss and grief.

Palm Garden Retreat provides the best care and services to all our residents, whether they are in frail care or independent living. The daily demand of enquiries for availability, as well as our occupancy, are a testament to the passion we have for the work we do.

I am sure that you will appreciate that as a home for the elderly and vulnerable, we cannot discuss anything to do with patients or residents in the media, save to say that much of what Mrs Chetty alleges is not correct.