Many in South Africa live with brain health challenges like cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s Dementia, and they and their family members don’t have the support they need because of the stigma, ignorance, and lack of knowledge of these brain health challenges.
According to the World Health Organisation, 55million people are living with Alzheimers and Dementia worldwide, with over 60% living in low-and middle-income countries.
If this statistic is so, South Africa must be contributing significantly to this world statistics. However, you get nowhere when you search for South African statistics. You will find statistics that say we have about 700k people living with Alzheimer’s or that in rural South Africa, we have an estimated 387k living with Alzheimers and Dementia. Anyone with a basic mathematical sense will be able to know that these statistics are extremely low and underestimation.
The World Health Organisation also says Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.
The biggest question for South Africans is why we do not have the real statistics around such a prevalent condition and one that affects not only people with Dementia but also their carers, families, and society at large.
Could this result from the misconception and perception that individuals, the medical profession, society, and government have?
There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings and preconceived ideas surrounding brain health as the stigma of it persists in our society. We seem to have developed a culture that sadly does not help promote brain health.
Here are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about Alzheimer’s and Dementia:
- Most people believe that things like memory loss, problems with language, misplacing things, and difficulty with daily tasks are normal parts of aging. As a result, they do not seek help until it is too late. It’s of major concern, that the medical professionals tend to also think the same. According to the 2019 World Alzheimer’s Report, almost 62% of healthcare providers worldwide believe that Dementia is part of normal aging.
- Most of the general public, 80%, have concerns about developing Dementia, and they believe there is nothing that can be done about it. They keep the symptoms a secret until it is too late. This sigma is magnified by the fact that almost 40% of the general public think doctors and nurses ignore people with Dementia; as they say, it is a progressive condition with no cure.
- The stigma also extends to family members, who are not equipped to deal with the neurological changes of their loved ones and are embarrassed to talk about it. The 2019 World Alzheimer’s Report found that 35% of carers worldwide said they had hidden the diagnosis of Dementia of a family member.
- The medical professionals, even Neurologists, and Psychiatrists, trained to diagnose and treat brain health conditions, are not equipped to deal with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. In the main, they are not even comfortable diagnosing it and openly communicating it to the individual and their family—an action most prevalent within the South African medical profession.
These misconceptions, perceptions, and stigmas impact the provision of support required by those in need. However, there is hope if we all empower ourselves to become knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s and Dementia. With this knowledge, we will learn that there is a lot we can do to prevent and reverse some of the symptoms and live with a healthy brain.
During the month of September, we promote awareness of Dementia and Alzheimer’s as we share all the knowledge we have accumulated from the various institutions and scientists doing research in this field.
We join everyone across the globe who are trying to build a movement under the campaign message of ‘Together, we can do so much’
When we run our informative workshop, we continue to raise awareness and knowledge among people, families, and communities to better arm them with the latest information and advice. We prepare them to, adapt and care for those who are most affected by Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Join our next workshop to get more insight and knowledge around Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Book here to attend the workshop.
066 334 7529 or 011 268 6074