World Alzheimer’s Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness and challenging the stigma around dementia, is coming up on September 21.
This condition is on the rise around the world and in South Africa because of an ageing global population.
Auria Senior Living, a developer and operator of senior living communities in South Africa, believes it should form an integral part of the care offering in such environments.
Auria has created a dedicated dementia care facility at its flagship senior living community, San Sereno, in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
“Finding a senior living environment that provides adequate care for someone with cognitive decline is particularly challenging and stressful, both for the person concerned and their immediate family,” Auria CEO Barry Kaganson says.
“Advances in medicine have greatly enhanced our understanding of the group of conditions broadly characterised as dementia, but the unfortunate reality is that not all facilities offer care on a level commensurate with this understanding.”
Kaganson says those aware of their own cognitive decline are often fearful of being removed from familiar surroundings and effectively institutionalised.
“The trauma to the patient as well as to their spouse and adult children can be enormous, and for many it signals the end of quality of life.”
Auria saw a need for more dedicated dementia care facilities so patients can live a life of meaning despite the constraints of the condition.
San Sereno is the first of Auria’s communities to have the new, state-of-the-art dementia care unit. The concept was inspired by leading dementia care providers in the US.
These providers, Kaganson says, have taken a radically different approach to dementia care – one based on creating an environment in which people can connect to things that have meaning for them.
While their physical and clinical needs are met, the focus is on finding ways to allow them to live the fullest life possible – relying less on medication where possible, encouraging appropriate levels of independence and purpose, and building a community where they can feel at home.
“People living with dementia have unique needs that are different from those of other seniors,” Kaganson says.
“Dementia is often classed with mental health in public sector systems, including in South Africa, but modern thinking is that this is neither correct nor appropriate.”
It is one of the reasons dementia patients tend to be over-medicated – and often, medication is used as a means of controlling behaviours which manifest as a result of frustration in a patient’s ability to express themselves, or inability to understand their current environment.
“What they actually need is a professionally supported environment in which their condition is properly understood – and in which they are understood as real people,” Kaganson says.
For more information visit www.auria.co.za.