Gilda Scammell is the founder of The Living Cornerstone (TLC) in Sedgefield, a non-profit organisation which aims to provide dignified and safe homes for people living with Alzheimer's disease.
"Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease for the sufferer as well as their family and caregiver. It is not easy to accept that your loved one will be there in body but not in mind. It is hard to think that someone you have known all your life will eventually not know who you are.
"The Living Cornerstone is there to help one cope with the inevitable, to lighten the load and provide a secure environment where sufferers are cared for in a loving, homely atmosphere, a real home from home ambience," says Scammell.
Scammell and her trained team of caregivers currently run three homes where they provide residents with a structured routine which includes daily walks outside the home. The homes are run along Christian principles and according to Scammell love and hope is key to the care they provide.
Many families are not equipped to deal with Alzheimer's sufferers in the home or lack the finances to pay for professional care. TLC takes in residents from all backgrounds, regardless of race or economic circumstances.
"It is clear that there is an urgent need for Alzheimer's care for people who cannot afford the high cost of private care," says the NPO.
In some cases, the residents at the TLC homes suffered severe neglect and abuse before coming to the homes. One such example is a 71-year-old woman who was left in the care of an alcoholic neighbour while her family was at work.
The elderly woman was either locked up or left to roam the streets while her caregiver went drinking at a local shebeen. The Alzheimer's association asked TLC to take the woman into their care and on the first night, she displayed behaviour typical of sexual abuse. After months at the home, the woman still became hysterical when she had to undress for a bath or get ready for bed. Because of Alzheimer's the woman could not remember specifically what had been done to her. She remained in the safety of the home until her death.
Currently, TLC has a total of 22 residents receiving 24-hour care, and a waiting list that keeps growing. Two of the houses are rented and the third belongs to the relative of one of the residents who is allowing TLC to use the premises rent-free. There is a desperate need for at least two more houses.
For more information on TLC's work visit their website.
The bank details are:
The Living Cornerstone
Acc no. 625 0612 9049
Branch 210 229