Dementia is a debilitating condition that is on the rise worldwide, and in South Africa. Its increase is driven both by worldwide population growth and an aging global population. Given its increasing occurrence, it should form an integral part of the care offering in senior living environments. Auria Senior Living, a leading developer and operator of senior living communities in South Africa, has acknowledged this need and taken a pioneering step by creating a dedicated dementia care facility at its flagship senior living community, San Sereno, in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
Dementia – a general term for diseases and conditions characterised by a decline in memory, problem-solving, language, and other thinking skills that affects people’s ability to perform daily tasks – is higher among people over the age of 70, although it can occur in younger people. The World Alzheimer Report 2015, titled
“The Global Impact of Dementia: An analysis of prevalence, incidence, cost and trends” stated that there were around 47 million people living with dementia around the world at the time and that its annual societal and economic cost was US$818 billion. This was a 35% increase in the numbers reported in the 2010 World Alzheimer Report. This means that if global dementia care were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world.
Barry Kaganson, CEO of Auria Senior Living, says: “Finding a senior living environment that provides adequate care for someone with cognitive decline is particularly challenging and stressful, both for the person concerned and their immediate family. Advances in medicine have greatly enhanced our understanding of the group of conditions broadly characterised as dementia, but the unfortunate reality is that not all facilities offer care on a level commensurate with this understanding.”
“Seniors don’t want to be consigned to a stereotypical ‘old age home’ these days. In addition, those who are aware of their own cognitive decline are often fearful of being removed from their familiar surroundings and effectively institutionalised.
The trauma to the ‘patient’ as well as to their spouse and adult children can be enormous, and for many it signals the end of quality of life. We therefore saw a need in the market for more dedicated dementia care facilities to be made available so that patients can live a life of meaning despite the constraints of dementia,” says Kaganson.
San Sereno is the first of Auria’s communities to offer this new, state of the art dementia care unit. The concept behind this dedicated facility has been inspired by some of the leading dementia care providers in the United States. These providers have taken a radically different approach to dementia care – one which has been embraced and emulated by other forward-thinkers across the USA and in other parts of the world.
Their approach is based on creating an environment in which people are connected to things that have meaning for them. While their physical and clinical needs are met, the focus is on finding ways to allow them to live the fullest life possible. This means relying less on medication where possible, encouraging appropriate levels of independence and purpose, and ultimately building a community where people feel at home.
“People living with dementia have unique needs that are different from those of other seniors, and as such, they need an appropriate living environment,” says Kaganson. “Dementia is often classed with mental health in public sector systems, including in South Africa, but modern thinking is that this is neither correct nor appropriate.
It is one of the reasons that dementia patients tend to be overly medicated – and often, medication is used as a means of controlling behaviors which manifest as a result of frustration in a patient’s ability to express themselves, or inability to understand or relate to their current environment. What they actually need is a professionally supported environment in which their condition is properly understood – and in which they are understood as real people,” says Kaganson.
In this respect, Kaganson is a strong advocate for the abovementioned USA model, which operates on the philosophy that “love is greater than fear” – an approach which has shown remarkable results. In one particular leading US facility, several residents have reduced their medications by as much as 50% since taking up residence, resulting in improved mental and physical states.
It is clear that the incidence of dementia, along with the need for dedicated dementia care facilities, will only grow in future. “Many of society’s perceptions regarding dementia are incorrect, and it is important that we learn from the pioneers in this field. This is not a condition that can be “treated” in the traditional medical sense – what we need to do is to provide the most supportive environment possible in which people can live out their lives in a supportive environment, specifically geared to their needs,” says Kaganson. “The leaders in the field say that if this means having their spouse, pets or grandchildren around them, or if it means being able to take part in activities they find pleasurable or meaningful, then so be it. In fact, the more ‘normal’ an environment can be, the better.”
As greater numbers of people are likely to be diagnosed with dementia in future, it will also be important to dispel myths and break down stigmas associated with dementia in broader society.
As a leader in senior living in SA, Auria is proud of its offering at San Sereno. “We have modelled our dementia care operations on some of the leading facilities in the world, and we look forward to integrating this into more of our continuing care communities around South Africa,” says Kaganson.
About Auria Senior Living
Auria Senior Living (Auria) develops, owns and manages a 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 is currently upgrading and renovating Melrose Manor in Melrose, due to be completed by mid-2020. Its latest project, Royal View, is a 122 apartment senior living development on the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington golf course, due to open at the end of 2021, with sales commencing in mid-2020.
For more information on Auria Senior Living visit: www.auria.co.za, or contact 087 654 8833.