DementiaSA was founded by Karen Borochowitz, along with a group of professionals and community workers, in 2005. Karen’s first-hand experience of dementia, through her mother’s illness, lead her to create an organisation that assists people who do not have the benefit of private dementia care.
DementiaSA provides a 24 hour helpline; raises awareness nationally and is actively involved in research and ongoing advocacy. The organisation advises residential care facilities – training nurses, community health workers and social workers as well as legal and financial professionals, community workers and occasionally the police and magistrates.
The global context of Dementia
The world is aging fast. By 2050, more than one in five people will be over the age of 60 due to falling fertility rates and longer life expectancy. The problem that now arises is the quality of health of an older person as it relates to their physical, emotional, economic, cognitive and mental health status. In South Africa, populations are aging faster than in first world countries, with fewer family members available and /or able to care for them. This is largely as a result of emigration, HIV/Aids and a high unemployment rate.
International statistics indicate that this illness is the 3rd most expensive disease to address. Dementia affects one in twenty people over the age of 65 and one in five over the age of 80. Furthermore, for every one person with dementia five other lives are impacted upon as it relates to care and support. Extreme emotional and financial stress is placed on families and communities affected by dementia sufferers which may lead to elder abuse. South Africa is severely under resourced in its ability to care for a growing population in need of professional help and support in the field of dementia.
The 2005 Lancet International Report indicates that there is an increasing need for community-based services, welfare and support for people with dementia and their carers. These new figures show that the pressure on governments for dementia services will intensify dramatically in the ensuing years. It is critical therefore that a climate for change is created in which awareness and education to policymakers, governments, medical aids, health care professionals, home based carers and civil societies are encouraged to change their social conscience to include the elderly and more specifically people with dementia.
Dementia in South Africa
Whilst dementia is a growing worldwide challenge, affecting all races, genders and socio-economic groups, South Africa with its growing elderly population, poor socio-economic conditions and highest global HIV/AIDS infection rate is especially vulnerable. It is also estimated that one in every three persons with HIV/Aids will develop dementia. In this country particularly, dementia is mostly unrecognised, misunderstood and undiagnosed, impacting negatively on the appropriate levels of care and support services available. For those suffering from dementia, this lack of provision makes them, their families and caregivers vulnerable to further suffering, stigmatisation, abuse and neglect.
DementiaSA was registered as a Non-Profit Organisation in 2006. We encourage and promote the principles of person-centred care. In a short period of time, DementiaSA has become the ‘go-to’ organisation for people needing help, information, support, training and counselling. The organisation trains care-givers and professionals (social workers, OT’s, GP’s and other allied health care workers) in the specialised skills required to look after people living with dementia and resultant memory and cognitive disabilities. Our social workers assist families with a number of range of services including identifying warning signs, why assessments are needed, what an assessment entails, challenges experienced by family members, support groups, educational material, medico-legal decisions, and in some case, guidelines to select a care facility. For many people and families, DementiaSA is the only support they have when someone in their family faces this insidious disease.