Stepping Stone Hospice’s feathered friends

Stepping Stone Hospice & Care Services is an independent, community-driven organisationand the first-ever service of its kind in the Greater Alberton area of Ekurhuleni. Their seven-bed in-patient unit is situated on the grounds of AMCARE.

Says Tersia Burger, CEO of Stepping Stone: “Our patients seem calmer and more at peace when they are fit enough to sit outside with the ducks in our garden.” She recalls one patient in particular who used to love being pushed outside in her wheelchair to be near the ducks. “Then, one day, a few of the ducklings marched into the unit and headed straight for her room. They came waddling out soon afterwards, with the nurses in hot pursuit. It was very funny at the time and the patient was so happy that they’d paid her a visit. It really brought a smile to her face. Sadly, she passed away the next day.”

As it turns out, ducks make great animal companions. USA Today recently ran a story about a wounded army veteran who keeps pet ducks in his yard as a form of therapy. He claims that they help him with depression, post-traumatic stress and keep him active as they motivate him to get out of the house. “They’re quite relaxing and they help comfort me,” he said, adding that “watching them can keep you entertained for hours.”

Since Stepping Stone opened its doors in October 2013, the aim has always been to provide special palliative care to people experiencing the impact of life-threatening illness. In their own way, these ‘feathered angels’ have become an unexpected yet welcome extension of this care. 

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