By Shannon Davis, Global Ageing Network
Geratec, an organization providing operational and support services to aged care providers throughout South Africa, has been exploring a new training model for dementia care. The training was launched in South Africa to help caregivers better relate to and connect with people living with dementia in care homes. It incorporates a host of learning theories, drawing on the parallels between the discriminatory practices of Apartheid and the stigmatization of dementia, to bring about a better understanding of the needs of people living with dementia.
There is a lack of education, research and resources on the African continent around dementia. In fact, there is no word for “dementia” among all of the various dialects in South Africa. Many people consider dementia as witchcraft. Further, there are no government policy of guidelines to address or improve this perception, nor any training among public health professionals. Quoting Prince (2001), who has been at the forefront of the 10/66 Dementia project in South Africa, they point out that 66 percent of the world’s people living with dementia reside in a less developed country, whilst 10 percent of the research is conducted in these countries.
Geratec’s dementia care training raises caregivers’ awareness about dementia through adult learning theory and storytelling. Adult learning theory seeks to shift perceptions about dementia through reflection and the exploration of one’s deeper beliefs. In addition, many African caregivers learn more through storytelling rather than the traditional classroom style. Subsequently, training sessions are led openly and creatively, invoking personal roots and displaying respect for the cultural heritage of its participants.
The training brings together a diverse group of caregivers and elders living with dementia, all with different cultural backgrounds and languages. It combines both narrative and experiential learning through storytelling and reflection on past experiences. The experience is informal, interactive and attendees are encouraged to participate throughout the entire session.
The first half of the training is focused on the caregiver, involving a variety of creative and personally engaging activities, including the use of the “Who am I form” to create a poster collage. The activities set the groundwork for transformative learning and allow participants to feel more at ease. The remaining time is focused on the experience of elders living with dementia. Caregivers are asked to think of an elder living with dementia whom they think they know well. They are then asked to complete a similar “Who are you” form with information about that elder. Attendees are asked to reflect on the observed behavior of people who are lonely, helpless, and bored. Reflecting in small groups on the experience of caregivers creates a platform for experiential learning.
Geratec’s new dementia care training model provides caregivers with an opportunity to deeply understand the experience of living with dementia, to create authentic relationships with the elders they serve, and to connect on a level beyond language and cultural differences, through life story work and simply being together in the world.
Join us in Montreux this September 2017 where Rayne Stroebel, Geratec’s Managing Director of Dementia Studies will share more about her organization’s work in strengthening and developing a non-western workforce in long-term care. You can register here.
Resource: Geratec, South Africa. Rayne Stroebel, Geratec’s Managing Director, Dementia Studies. “Engaging the Non-Western Workforce in Long-term Care Facilities”.