Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen 14th August 2014

I apologise for only writing now, but last night I was just too tired. This morning Susanne and I took the long (and straight) road to the end of the Zambesi Strip (the old Caprivi Strip).

Yesterday was an incredible day in the history of Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia. We had our first appointment at 8am with the nursing management team of UNAM (University of Namibia) in their boardroom. (Boardroom sounds so important?!) There were about 8 women. I showed them our slide show featuring Ndjinaa as a starter. I also explained to them the future of ADN as we plan to educate people in order to spread the word on dementia so that Namibia can be a country of dementia friendly towns, villages and shops.

After this, questions rained down on Susanne and I. The management team explained to me that they too have visited Germany earlier in the year to gain more knowledge on looking after the elderly and also for a curriculum change they plan in 2015 about dementia. They explained that the caring that they saw for people with Dementia stunned and impressed them. They wanted more information about our house at Yakandonga and if their students would be able to live there if they sent them there for their practical.

I think the main question was this: ‘What role can the medical school of UNAM play in the vision of ADN?” We toyed with the idea that ADN and the medical school will have to take hands in the education of future nurses in the nursing/caring of people with dementia. My idea is that ADN does not have to start a dementia academy if we can work with UNAM on this regard.

We were asked to return at 14h00 to meet the rest of the staff and to share with them too our vision and the story of Ndjinaa. They reckoned that everyone needed to be familiarised with ADN to make the best possible decision for the future.

And so we returned at 14h00 to enlighten a further 20 staff members on the education of people with dementia and the training of carers so that people with dementia can enjoy a life a quality. The two lecturers of psychiatry that is currently busy creating a dementia program indicated that they would contact me. Also present was the adjunct deacon, Ms Van Der Westhuysen, who originally invited me to UNAM and she indicated that there is a possibility of a future talk to affiliate the ADN training program with that of the UNAM medical school.

Talks have started and I firmly believe that ADN will no longer be seen as just another dream from the smallest Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia, but an important instigator in the freeing of people with dementia – so that those who live with dementia and consider their lives to be ‘finished’ can have a life of quality until their end. ADN will have to play an extremely important role in the medical family of Namibia.

Susanne and closed off yesterday with a visit from another young lady who came to see us because her heart is for people with dementia.

At dinner we met a Herero man from Okakarara (our waiter), who could not believe the photos of a freed Ndjinaa on my phone. He went to call the meat chef, Kami, because Kami is a Himba from a village near Ndjinaa. And Kami could not believe what he was seeing…

Neither Susanne nor I will ever forget the expressions on his face as I showed him the photos. I have never seen anybody as stunned, confused and scared. All he kept saying was: “I see the photos, but I don’t believe it. How can Ndjinaa not be in chains? Why doesn’t she walk away? And why isn’t she aggressive and throws stones?” All this he questioned while wildly waving his chef’s knife. He called all the staff members to come and have a look. Then he finally said: “What did you do? Did you give her some kind of pill?” But I think he wanted to know whether I too, just bewitched her? All I could say was that we gave her the pill of love. And he said: “Love cannot do this. You did something else and I want to know what.”

Susanne and I waited until 11pm for him, but there were just too many guests and we left. Kami is probably working tonight again and I hope he is still cutting his meat and wondering about Ndjinaa.

I have to say good night, tomorrow is another long road and a lot of hours under trees (and in the sun) having conversations about the possibility that witchcraft is the African’s dementia/Alzheimer’s.  I think we should maybe recommend to Alzheimer’s Dementia International that they should have Bewitching Conference in Africa instead of Alzheimer’s Conferences…



Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia Update

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen 13th August 2014

Susanne, a Berlin student doing her doctorate, landed yesterday here in sunny Windhoek. We immediately started to work and I took her to MDH the basis for the following newspapers; Die Republikein, Algeine Zeitung and the Namibian Sun. Here we dug through their archives looking for articles on witchery, casting of spells and of course, dementia.

After that we departed to the offices of the NGK (Dutch Reformed Church) where I was invited to attend their AGM on ECSOS – their funding for evangelism and charities. I was asked to relate the story of Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia. The response was incredibly positive and we hope that a door will open for ADN in the future.

From there we went to see a white Afrikaans speaking student nurse and a Damara speaking student nurse of UNAM. (University of Namibia). We received a lot of valuable information from these two students like that when an animal like a frog or bat is seen out of season (a frog outside the wet season or a bat that flies during the day), it is a witch and should be killed or burnt – of which burning is the preferred option.

We also received confirmation from these two students, that the symptoms of dementia and that of witchery is exactly the same. These two students have to do their practical’s in their fourth year of study (next year) and we (ADN) invited them to come to Yakandongo as one of the subjects of the fourth year is mental health. All I had to do was to bring this under the attention of their deacon.

Now we are headed for our appointed with the management of nursery at the medical department of UNAM. If they give us a green light, we might be able to speak to all the lecturers later in the day. Who knows, maybe this is the beginning of the Dementia Academy? Not? Well maybe then the start of a new chapter in ADN, and a hope for the people with dementia that has to live as if a spell has been cast upon them.



Providing Palliative Care to People with Mental Health Illnesses

Originally posted on Palliative Health:

Providing Palliative Care to People with Mental Health IllnessesAs unfortunate as it is, people who suffer from one or more mental illnesses tend to die anywhere from 10 to 15 years sooner than those who don’t have mental illnesses.  Additionally, those with mental health conditions require more in-depth end-of-life care due to their psychological needs. On the upside, there are palliative care facilities and services that are available for these people.

Understanding Mental Health Illness and Its Effect on Palliative Care

When a person suffers from a mental health illness, he or she may or may not be aware of the condition.  Take for example a person who suffers from dementia.  At times, the person may be well aware that dementia is causing problems, while at other times, the condition itself may cause the person to be unaware of its presence.  Its circumstances like this that make providing palliative care to those with mental health illnesses a…

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Link between vitamin D deficiency, dementia risk confirmed

Vitamins! Who would have thought….

Originally posted on Eideard:

An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.

Similar results were recorded for Alzheimer’s disease, with the moderately deficient group 69 per cent more likely to develop this type of dementia, jumping to a 122 per cent increased risk for those severely deficient…

Dr Llewellyn said: “We expected to find an association between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the…

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Day 370 – An Itch That Can’t Be Scratched

We all need laughter and humour – even in the midst of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Originally posted on Not Forgotten:

Every now and again, there comes a moment of levity that reduces the strains on life. An inappropriate word or phrase accidentally spoken out loud at the wrong place, the wrong time. A giggle so infectious that it ripples through all corners of the room. The off-key crooning of inebriated co-workers at a late-night, karaoke bar. Humor can even make an appearance during those lonely days of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s a bleak February day in Vancouver. Winter has not only come, but decided to extend its stay with torrential downpours only a meteorologist could love. My girlfriend, Anna, and I’ve just spent the afternoon with my mom at The Duchess, eating a grease-laden lunch before watching a non-descript movie from the 80s that features neon colors, synthesized music, and a video montage.

As we prepare to leave her apartment, my mom lets out an exasperated…

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Tales of an iPad

Incredible… it is all I can think of saying…

Originally posted on Hospice Matters:

by Susan Anderson, HPCCR Social Worker

Editor’s Note: A couple of years ago, a social worker at HPCCR found that she could get many of her formerly unresponsive dementia patients to engage with her if she brought her iPad to their visits.  And just like that, an entire organizational program was created around using iPads with dementia patients.  Realizing both the success and the potential of the program, what quickly followed was an effort to raise money to purchase iPads for all HPCCR social workers.  While many of them are fortunate to have one, there are still others — like Susan Anderson — who share one with another social worker.  Our fundraising efforts continue; if you are interested in learning more about supporting this worthwhile program, visit the dementia care page on our website, or contact our Development Department at 704.375.0100.  Meanwhile, let Susan’s stories below awe and inspire you! 

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Punctuation malfunction in my brain and my increasing fear of commas.

Originally posted on Before I forget...:

There are days when I notice my Alzheimer’s seems to be a bit worse and try to remember to record it for my Alzheimer’s Journey.

So, I will get an apology out the way first – sorry if my grammar and punctuation is all over the place but today my brain cells have gone on strike.

Cats woke us up extremely early at 6.30am – little darlings (smiling through clenched teeth :))) ), and I settled in my chair with my coffee to start reading a new book.

Right from the start I found I couldn’t understand the sentence because those pesky little tadpole commas seemed to be in the wrong place.  I read the first paragraph again slowly but it really did not make much difference.  As you know a comma in the incorrect place can put a totally different meaning on sentence but today for me, every comma…

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Namibia’s First Dementia Friendly Shop

Namibia’s First Dementia Friendly Shop

The 19th July 2014 is a historic day in the history of Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia. Well, it started back in September 2013, but was only realized now.

During my visit with Michaela Fink at the University of Giessen, I was invited to meet Verena Roth. As Verena, with Prof Reimer Gronemeyer, is involved with Dementia Deutschland, it was only logical for me to meet her.

During my meeting with Verena, I learned quite a bit, but the most important concept that I picked up was not to create ‘dementia bubbles’ for people with dementia. What this entails is not to create a modern way of caring for people with dementia somewhere that is out of sight and out of mind from our daily ‘normal’ lives. She told me about dementia friendly societies where people with dementia are still part of their normal societies.

On the plane back to Namibia I had a lot to think about as the concept grew on me.

Upon my return to Namibia, the trustees and I of ADN decided to try to find one village or town in Namibia that would be willing to transform into a dementia friendly town and society. In one of the towns that we picked, a business woman suggested that we needed to transform the businesses into dementia friendly business as this would in turn create a dementia friendly town.

Since then I have visited six towns with ADN’s awareness outreach ‘program’ to help ordinary people understand people with dementia, the sickness and its effects on society as whole. At the end of my presentation, I always present a challenge to the attending people to transform their town into a dementia friendly place – a place where people with dementia can live a quality life despite having dementia.

The small coastal town of Henties Bay was the last town on my list for the first half of 2014. The majority of the people living in Henties Bay are elderly, retired white Africans. (One of the local pastors here mentioned to me that the average age of his congregation members is 75.)

As I drove to Henties Bay, there was an expectation in my heart that the people of Henties would be open to hear what I had to say. I was incredibly happy to arrive at a fully packed congregation hall. What really amazed me was the amount of younger people present – one of them the owner of Henties Bay SPAR (the biggest local super market?) Daleen Agenbach stayed behind after the meeting and asked me if I’d be willing to train her staff. She was one of many people in Namibia who had a family member with dementia and had to deal with her daily in the shop.

And on the 19th July I returned to Henties Bay and trained 35 SPAR staff members. Only three of the staff members with the owner, were white Africans. All the rest were black Africans – a nation riddled with superstitions and witchcraft.

As we live in Africa and witchcraft is the foundation of most African cultures, I decided to use bewitching as a synonym for dementia. Maybe it would help to make things more clear as someone who is ‘bewitched” displays the same signs (symptoms) as someone with dementia.

Henties Bay SPAR is the first business in Namibia committed to support any person with dementia that enters their shop. Hopefully the staff members, upon reco.gnizing someone with dementia in town, will be able to help and assist them, instead of being scared of them and fleeing from them. Maybe this is the start of spreading the word that people with dementia are not dangerous or bewitched.

In my training of the staff members, I have relied greatly on the following website: Dementia Friends ( as their videos on the topic is truly both inspirational and relevant.

Henties Bay Spar Staff

Here today, Gone today

A story… from a person with dementia’s perspective….

Originally posted on play-grand :


I awaken to the light, the sun coming through the window. Happily drowsy, fresh from a good nights sleep, I celebrate morning. It’s morning, at last and I get to go sledding with my sister. Momma said we could last night as we watched the snow falling furiously like there’s no tomorrow.

“Mae, wake up” I whisper before turning towards her bed. “They have cancelled school and we get to go sledding,” I say, hardly able to contain my excitement. But, something is strangely different.  I do not see her bed. An unfamiliar armoire looms where her bed should be. I’m confused. How did her bed simply go away? Where did this ugly piece of furniture come from? Where did Mae’s bed go? Where did Mae go?

“Mae,” I yell. But there is still no answer. “Mae!”

It suddenly hits me.  “My God, this isn’t even our room,”  What is this…

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NightSide – Michael Curren and Dr. Rudy Tanzi Are Answering Questions On Alzheimer’s

Don’t miss this!

Originally posted on CBS Boston:

BOSTON (CBS) – Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5 million people in this country. Many people know someone diagnosed with this disease, and have seen the devastating effects firsthand. While Alzheimer’s has no cure, medical research has been making huge strides in our understanding of the disease, as well as what we can do to treat it. Michael Curren and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, both with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, join NightSide to talk about what we know about Alzheimer’s, what can be done to treat it, and to answer any questions you may have about this terrible disease.

Origninally broadcast July 14th, 2014.

[cbs-audio-player title="NightSide With Dan Rea" artist="Dan Rea" download=false url="URL" station_name="WBZ NewsRadio 1030" station_logo=""]

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