An old saying “A trouble shared is a trouble halved” may not be applicable in all cases, but it certainly helps when it comes to dementia problems.
DementiaSA has been successful in tackling the problems in several ways: (1) Establishing support groups for those caring for people with dementia; (2) Arousing awareness of dementia through talks given by DermentiaSA social workers; and (3) Training people to become carers
DementiaSA now has support groups throughout the Western Cape and is busy setting up others outside it. It has nearly 20 support groups in the Western Cape, spreading from central Cape Town to Pinelands, Milnerton and Plumstead and from Bellville to Gordons Bay, Hermanus, Kleinmond, Kuils River, Langebaan, Strand and Somerset West.
There are regular surveys to establish the impact the support groups have in caring for a loved one with dementia. Examples of the written replies are: “Enlightening” and “I most definitely would recommend the support group experience to others.”
Other replies are more detailed: “The minute I walked in we were embraced like family because everybody’s stories were different, some sad, some happy, some funny, but we all had a similar experience that I could relate to. Just being in the support group uplifts my spirit and I come home feeling more renewed.”
Another example: “I was feeling alone, not knowing what to do or how to cope with my mom’s dementia, with the way she was dressing herself. It looked like she never cared.” Later the writer is much more optimistic after attending the support group: “ “It has made me more relaxed. I’m talking to her and she doesn’t get upset with me. I’m really going with the flow. It is awe-inspiring. You learn a new thing every month, and how to go back in their time because our time doesn’t exist any more.”
Awareness Talks and Training Meetings
The DementiaSA social workers are well known for giving encouraging and stimulating talks at the support group and training meetings.
Also, readers are encouraged to contact DementiaSA about getting a social worker to talk at other social events, such as church meetings. In this way the dementia message is being continually spread, helped by the advice leaflets which are distributed at the meetings.
The social workers are well-respected, highly trained and experienced, with the older persons speaking English, Afrikaans and isi-Xhosa.
They are equipped to assist with complex dementia cases where expert interventions are required. They can also help to investigate reports of elder abuse.
The social workers are also invaluable in helping to train people as dementia carers. They encourage people who have family members living with dementia to do the training to get a better understanding of how to care for them.
Anyone is allowed to do the training, and this has encouraged an increasing number of people to come forward, so that well over 300 carers are now active in the field in 2018.