Here’s The Difficult Reality of Living with Dementia



21st September is World Alzheimer’s Day and is a reminder to deal with a very real challenge for all of us. Dementia affects 1 in 20 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 5 over the age of 80.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe various different brain disorders that have in common a decline in memory and other thinking skills. Dementia is a progressive, degenerative brain syndrome that affects memory, thinking, behavior and emotion.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 50-60% of all cases and is caused by abnormal brain tissue changes. How fast dementia progresses depends on the individual. As dementia progresses, individuals affected need care with all aspects of daily life.

How many people in the world have dementia?

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Age is an important risk factor but not the only one. Dementia affects 1 in 20 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 5 over the age of 80. Worldwide, there are an estimated 47.5 million people with dementia (2015 stats). By 2050 the number is expected to rise to over 130 million. Population ageing is turning age profiles on their head. By 2050, there will be more adults over 60 worldwide than children under 14. This demographic shift is unprecedented and will have profound implications for society.

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Ten early symptoms of dementia:

  1. Memory loss
  2. Difficulty in performing everyday tasks
  3. Problems with language
  4. Disorientation to time and place
  5. Poor or decreased judgment
  6. Problems with keeping track of things
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Changes in mood or behaviour
  9. Changes in personality
  10. Loss of initiative

SOURCE: Dementia SA

The covering of costs of dementia 

24/7 care is expensive and can cost up to about 25k – 30k/month in-home or around 20K – 25k in retirement villages, additional to base living fees. Additional fees for nursing sisters and medication can easily add another 5k/month.

There is a heated debate in South Africa for medical aids to include dementia as a disease that should be included on the prescribed minimum benefits (PMB) list.

What are the care arrangements for people with dementia?

Research has shown that most people with dementia live in their own homes and are cared for by a female caregiver usually a spouse or daughter and that caring is associated with substantial psychological and financial strain. (Int J Geriatric Psychiatry 2004 19 170-177).

Family Caregivers have to cut back on paid work or stop work altogether, informal care is often supplemented by formal paid care and people with dementia are relatively heavy consumers of health services.

CareChamp, based in Cape Town, is a home care agency that matches clients with a selection of suitable caregivers and allows clients to choose their preferred caregivers through watching video interviews. “We offer short or long-term care services starting at R37/hour through our certified, vetted and insured caregivers including ongoing care reports. Short-term care – with a minimum booking of four hours – aims exactly at relieving family caregivers from the emotional stress associated with caregiving. Everyone needs to take a break every once in a while.”


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