With increasing numbers of South Africans enjoying internet access, it is believed that through embracing this technology more people can be helped to cope with the demands of caring for loved ones with dementia. pic: pexels.com

A Facebook support group that aims to provide a safe and accessible space for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia to connect with each other and occupational therapists experienced in dementia care has been launched by Livewell Villages, a dementia care facility in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“With increasing numbers of South Africans enjoying internet access and some 18 million of us now active on social media according to the ‘Digital in 2018’ annual report, we believe that through embracing this technology we will be able to help more people to cope with the demands of caring for loved ones with dementia,” says Ivan Oosthuizen, chief executive officer of Livewell.

“We understand that coming to terms with a dementia diagnosis, or dealing with the effects such progressive conditions may have on a loved one, requires considerable emotional strength. Even the most resilient among us may experience times when we feel uncertain or overwhelmed in the face of the daily stressors associated with dementia,” he said.

According to Marike Coetzee, occupational therapist at the Somerset West Livewell Village, the support groups currently hosted at two of their facilities have been extremely well received, however they can only accommodate a limited number of people and are only accessible to those who live near to these physical locations.

“There are inevitable emotional and physical strains when one is caring for a beloved parent or spouse with dementia, and without adequate support this may take a toll on our relationships with the individual, with other family members and loved ones,” she said.

“Over time this can have a serious impact on the carer’s well being, which in turn may detract from the quality of care they are able to provide.  However, empathetic support and opportunities to debrief with other people who are familiar with the complexities of looking after someone with dementia can be highly beneficial,” said Coetzee.

The free online Facebook support group provides a space where people can engage with others who are involved in dementia care or caring for a loved one at home.  

Livewell’s occupational therapists, who have experience in caring for people with dementia, provide expert commentary and feedback to supplement the participants’ discussions.

“People from across the country are able to interact on the subject of caring for a loved one with dementia, and hopefully feel a sense of comfort knowing that they are not alone in their experiences. Whether you need information about caregiving, are wanting to share your story or simply need to be in a safe environment to seek help, there is no need to feel alone,” said Coetzee.

To help protect the privacy of members, the Livewell Facebook support group is a closed group and interested individuals need to request access to join.

For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/livewellvillages/