Stop stigmatising the elderly with dementia and alzheimer’s, communities told

STIGMATISING the elderly particularly those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, labelling them witches and wizards could be as a result of lack of knowledge of the diseases. Nonetheless, this should not be an excuse for name-calling which further worsens depression and other related disorders among the elderly.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

This was said in separate interviews on the sidelines of the World Alzheimer’s Day commemorations held at the Society of Destitute Aged (SODA) Old People’s Home in Highfields on Wednesday.
The World Alzheimer’s Day is commemorated every 21st of September. 
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.

Zimbabwe Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Association (ZARDA) Ms Shupikai Manyaraji support consultant said September as an Alzheimer’s month, they commemorated those living with the condition as well as those who succumbed to it.

“We had special breakfast was prepared for the elderly as well as educating them along with their carers on Alzheimer’s disease, its risk factors, signs and symptoms and how to prevent dementia,” she said.

She decried the derogation and misinformation of dementia and alzheimer’s in African communities.

“In Zimbabwe, and the whole of Africa, there is a lot of stigmatisation, misinformation and denial. Africans need more education and knowledge as we fail to accept that this is a medical condition. We say the elderly would have been bewitched or they practice witchcraft because of their behaviour,” Ms Manyarachi said. “The other thing is our communities are not dementia-friendly. So our mission is to raise awareness in the community and educating them that dementia is not a work of sorcery but a medical disease that has been scientifically studied.”

She called for a National Plan for people with dementia to protect them from thieving chicanerous folks.
SODA Home Director Ms Emilia Mukaratirwa said they had an opportunity to deepen their understanding of dementia and alzheimers stating there was need for continuous awareness raising.
“What I want to say is I wish we had more platforms and not wait for particular days as this. I wish more could be done to conscientise communities about these conditions. Carers need to be educated about handling such cases,” she said.
She also found it depressing that African communities due to limited knowledge label their elderly relatives witches and sorcerer.

“What is sad about our African communities is the interpretation of alzheimers and dementia which has seen our elderly labelled as sorcerers and witches due to lack of understanding these diseases. It is important even at Government level that these awareness campaigns be held regularly,” noted Ms Mukaratirwa.

Ms Mukaratirwa also encouraged communities living with elderly to appreciate that the elderly are prone to diseases as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

“I just want to remind everyone out there that the elderly were not born old. They were young before like we think we are today. We are growing year by year, birthdays every year towards the days where these challenges begin to spring up or manifest. So wouldn’t we want in our twilight years were people appreciate these challenges? People who would be in a position to take care of us better. To love us better. To tolerate us better because they would have been educated,” she said.

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