Johannesburg, 20 September 21: The occurrence of Alzheimer’s Disease is on the rise worldwide, and South Africa is no exception when it comes to what this means for healthcare. Although the majority of people suffering from Alzheimer’s are older, the disease can strike at any age and is currently incurable, meaning that all Alzheimer’s patients need care for the remainder of their lives.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disease that progressively affects memory and cognitive functioning. It accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills, and can be caused by a variety of conditions. It is important to note that dementia, and Alzheimer’s as a specific form of dementia, is not a normal part of ageing.
Barry Kaganson, CEO of Auria Senior Living, a leading developer of senior living communities in South Africa, says: “It is estimated that globally, about 50 million people are living with dementia, and this is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2019, the total global societal cost of dementia was US$ 1.3 trillion, and these costs are expected to pass US$ 2.8 trillion by 2030.”
While it is not a normal part of ageing, prevalence is higher among older adults. Most people with the condition are over the age of 65. After 65, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. With a growing global population, which in turn has a higher proportion than ever of older people, this has enormous implications for healthcare.
There are a number of risk factors to be aware of for Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia:
- Age: although age does not cause dementia, one’s risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other dementias does increase with age.
- Genetics: there are certain genes that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, and a family history of the condition can be an indicator.
- Smoking and alcohol use: smoking puts one at much greater risk, as does the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.
- Head injury: people who have experienced head injuries are at risk for developing dementia.
- Heart and vascular conditions: Current research points to a strong link between heart. health and brain health. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all increase one’s risk for Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.
“People with dementia, and particularly Alzheimer’s Disease, require very specific care,” says Kaganson. Auria’s international award-winning flagship community, San Sereno in Johannesburg, operates a dedicated dementia care facility. While such care is necessary and can have its complications, there are some inspiring examples which show how people with dementia can still live a meaningful life. “Our clinical-social hybrid approach is based on that of a leading care providers globally,” says Kaganson.
“International research has shown that through a deeply person-centred approach which seeks appropriate ways to provide meaning in people’s lives, wellbeing has measurably improved for dementia patients,” says Kaganson. Not only were positive mood and behaviour changes evident – many people were able to reduce the amount of medication they took; and significant numbers regained the ability to walk or feed themselves where they had been unable to do so before. “We now know that many of the activities which improve overall wellness for every adult, can slow the progression of dementia or assist in altering many of the manifest behaviours,” says Kaganson.
Auria’s senior living communities provide gold-standard care for all residents, and the dementia care approach is inspired by the best-practice example mentioned above. “We establish authentic and caring relationships with our residents and support meaningful engagement in a variety of activities, whilst providing whatever assistance they require. Dementia care facilities are also integrated socially within our secure and controlled communities,” says Kaganson.
Not everyone with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia has access to cutting-edge healthcare. It is estimated that some 94% of people living with dementia in low to middle income countries are cared for at home. Many of these people do not even have a formal diagnosis. Even in developed countries there is pressure on healthcare systems which are undersupplied in terms of dementia care specialists.
According to the USA’s Alzheimer’s Association, people over 65 who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease live for an average of four to eight years after their diagnosis. However, some live as long as 20 years. “New paradigms of treatment which seek to make life as normal as possible for dementia patients are important to explore as they may help to take some of the burden off healthcare systems as well as removing some of the stigmas surrounding dementia,” says Kaganson. “Furthermore, if patients are going to live with such conditions for many years, it is the dignified and respectful thing to do as a provider of care is to help find ways in which they can live out the remainder of their lives with a quality of life and an enjoyment of daily living.”
About Auria Senior Living
Auria Senior Living (Auria) develops, owns and manages portfolio of senior living communities throughout South Africa. Auria is setting a new benchmark in continuing-care community living for the over-70s, providing for the intellectual, emotional, social and physical needs of its residents, in attractive and well-located environments.
The company’s flagship is San Sereno in Bryanston, and it has just upgraded Melrose Manor in Melrose North. Its latest Gauteng project, Royal View, is a 122-apartment senior living development on the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington golf course, due to open in 2022. Woodside Village, Auria’s first senior living environment in the Western Cape, is currently being refurbished and is expected to be completed by May 2022. Further Auria communities are planned across the country.
For more information on Auria Senior Living, visit: www.auria.co.za, or contact 087 654 8833.