World Alzheimer’s Day takes place every year on 21 September. The day is marked as a global effort to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Health For Mzansi sat down with Tersia Jeneke, a 70-year-old retired nurse in Paarl in the Western Cape, who was the personal carer for her late aunt who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Jeneke’s aunt was already residing with the family before her diagnosis, which made it easier for the family to recognise and identify certain symptoms. Her aunt lived with the condition for ten years, which progressively became worse over time, Jeneke explains.
The initial stages of the diagnosis included events such as:
- Forgetting that she ate a meal or drank coffee;
- Forgetting where she placed her belongings (e.g. money, cosmetic belongings); and
- Increase in accusations (paranoia).
Communication and understanding are key
Occurrences such as these have the potential to add confusion or tension within the household, therefore it’s imperative to have open and clear communication with all family members, says Jeneke. This is not only to ensure support but to ensure that everyone understands and is prepared for what might occur as a result of the condition.
The unfortunate reality of this disease is the loss of someone you knew, and a life lived, while the person is still physically with you. Jeneke reflects on her aunt as a person who was a stylish and prim and proper lady who only shopped at certain retail stores. It was therefore heartbreaking to witness the increasing disinterest in hygiene care and in aggression towards her loved ones.
Jeneke admits that the loss of a loved one’s memory can have an emotional and mental impact on those who are left behind.
In the episode, Jeneke also identifies certain systems that assisted her family:
- Do not make drastic changes to the surroundings, keep everything as is. This creates familiarity and comfort.
- Practise patience.
- Encourage extended family members to assist and support.
- Don’t avoid having fun from time to time (e.g. dancing).
- Storytelling (reflecting on past events).
Listen to the full interview on the Health For Mzansi podcast:
Apple Podcasts: Click here to listen on any Apple device.
Google Podcasts: Click here to listen on Google Podcast.
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