The Big Forget
According to the WHO worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. The population of Sub-Saharan Africa is aging, which increases the number of those at risk of dementia.
In some Sub-Saharan African countries, the symptoms of dementia, which may lead to strange erratic behavior and memory dysfunction can easily be misread and are sometimes associated with madness as well as superstitious beliefs. Fear and stigma leave those living with dementia and cognitive impairment extremely vulnerable.
One of the major challenges preventing people living with dementia from accessing appropriate services is the absence of the word ‘dementia’ in most African languages, as instead words such as ‘madness’ are used to refer to dementia.
Low diagnostic rates prevent people living with dementia from receiving adequate care. In some instances, individuals with dementia are taken to traditional healers or faith healers in an attempt to heal their condition. These groups may play a role in identifying people with dementia.
There remains a need for dementia awareness and education across communities, including faith and traditional healers, and healthcare professionals to support pluralistic healthcare provision.
Dementia is a growing health priority, particularly in less-resourced countries and amongst indigenous populations. It is important to understand cultural meanings ascribed to dementia in order to provide culturally congruent care and support for people with dementia and their families. Inclusive discussions about dementia in Sub-Saharan Africa are essential if policymakers and key stakeholders are to improve the well-being of people living with dementia and their caregivers.
As seen on National Geographic
July 21, 2022