Oom Hansie – A Cry for Help

Elderly Man in Hat - Black and White

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia consists of a very small community. We work hard to make people aware of Alzheimer’s & Dementia in Namibia, but we remain a minority. As it is, we strive to help our residents. Most families that bring their afflicted to us, have little or no understanding of the intense needs of a resident with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. They also do not understand the costs of housing an elderly with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. And so it is that we received a notice that one of our residents are to be taken to a new care facility (a place where the staff are not trained to be care takers to Alzheimer’s or Dementia patients.) We are at a loss here as you will see below and we desperately need the help of donations. Please send this far and wide – maybe someone somewhere will open his heart to the incredible sad story of Mr Hansie van Rooyen.

Letter from ADN’s Berrie Holtzhausen to a member of the Van Rooyen Family.

Good morning S,

I am truly sorry to hear that you want to take Oom (uncle) Hansie away from his dementia family. Not only for him, but also for his new family here. I understand that you can only pay N$4500/month and that his sponsers have withdrawn and that the family is fine with moving him… but…

But because of Oom Hansie I will see if I can find new sponsers. If not, I understand that you will come to take him away at the end of July.

Regarding his payments, I just want to clarify the following; our monthly fees remain N$ 9,662.00 For the last six months ADN has paid for his basic medical needs which comes to N$1102/month – that is N$6616 for the last six months. We have also paid for his personal toiletries for more than 3 years as none of his family has been assisting in this area or thought that he needed toiletries. The deposit, as you will understand, has long since been used.

Why has the responsible party who signed oom Hansie’s contract not contacted me? Why has nobody informed me of the situation? Oom Hansie is a human being. I can only pray that the same will not happen to him at the new facility that happened to him when he landed with us. It took him months to get over the fact that he was simply dropped like a bag of potatoes on our front porch. He kept on saying that the Pastor and his wife simply dropped him, never to return. And he could not understand it. (Who does?)

Oom Hansie is deaf and therefor struggles to make conversation and it is difficult to understand him. This makes him a very lonely person among strangers. But here, here among his dementia family he sings and he laughs. This is his family. His people. His home. Hy never stays in his room, he is always in the living room where he can communicate in the intricate way he does. Where he sings ‘Ou Ryperd’ like only he does and where he talks about his red tractor.

I wish we can keep him here. But you have given us such short notice! I wish those responsible would have contacted me earlier!

We ADN, work with cash. Because we are a TRUST, no institution wants to provide us with a loan or credit facilities. For the last six months we have poured thousands into the new care facility. This month, specifically, is financially very difficult as we have keep on providing our residents with food etc. Our CEO, Linda, does her best to make ends meet and still manages to provide treats or our residents. I lay awake at night trying to figure things out. And sometimes I have to block my own thoughts just so that I can forget about Oom Hansie and his bag of potatoes, that he has been visited once and then never again. That he was rejected by his family because he is just a road worker and dropped his medical aid in his hour of need and was therefore seen as neglecting his wife. But he still is a human…

For us he is Hansie that can sing and laugh a toothless laugh. Hansie that still believes he has a red tractor and sheep. Hansie that can sing ‘Ou Ryperd’ like nobody else. Hansie that struggles to walk but still manages to go to the bathroom on his own.

I hope you understand that I am writing this letter with tears. I apologise, but I had to write. I have little or no time. I am leaving for South Africa in the morning to say goodbye to a friend. When I return, I have to head up to the Cunene to go visit our dementia family there. And when I get back here, I have to tell Oom Hansie that he is yet again to move. That he is to move to a house that is not his home.

Maybe you can send my plea onto his sponsors to reconsider. Maybe you can send it to his old church. Maybe I will think of a plan as I drive a thousand kilometres towards a friend. I don’t know… I’m at a loss of words.

All I know is that Oom Hansie can be moved. He cannot be taken away from his family that understands him and appreciates him. Not at this stage of his life. It is here that he must sing ‘Ou Ryperd’ until his very last breath and dream about his red tractor and his sheep. Here…

I hope you understand what I am trying to say.



Email:    berrie.holtzhausen@gmail.com
Email:    alzheimernam@gmail.com
Phone:  (00264) 064-461388/221114
Mobile: (00264) 081 2833983

Picture courtesy of Reporting on Health

News: ADN & the University of Namibia

UNAM, University of Namibia

Good Morning dear friends of Demenetia in Namibia

I have been very quiet over the last few months as we were busy preparing our new venue next to the Swakop river and finally moved at the beginning of May. A wonderful lady, Linda, joined our team and together she and I had a very busy time with a lot of challenges.

But this week Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia is making news again. Why?

The University of Applied Sciences in Muenster Germany is busy with a training workshop here in Namibia called;: Caring for elderly people in Namibia. This takes place at the University of Namibia (UNAM – as it is locally known). They invited ADN to take part in this very historical event.

I, Berry Holtzhausen, have been invited to lecture on Dementia in Namibia and will also be attending the workshop and take part in the lectures that they are running for the staff of UNAM’s medical school and other role players, like the Ministry of Health for example.

My hope and prayers are that after this week the most neglected group of people in Namibia – People living with Dementia – will never be neglected again. I also hope that I can sow a seed through the experiences of ADN in Namibia that Dementia needs to be seen as a health priority in Namibia.

That is all from me for now, but I hope to get back to you soon with an update.

Namibian Nurses

Her Name Was Ndjinaa

The following was written in Afrikaans by an anonymous writer who was deeply touched by the story of Ndjinaa… (Below the original piece is a translation by myself.

…haar naam was Ndjinaa

Daar is n storm in my hart wat broei. Soos Simson van ouds, n passie n droom. Dan sien ek haar vasgeketting soos n mal dier in die stof n bondel flenters bene. Haar oe is wild en verward haar gebabbel in die wind; almal lag, en is bang, die ou mal-vrou.

 Ek kyk na haar ek sien in haar verlepte oe, hoe sy smeek in haar wereld van stilte en seer. Onderhandelinge harde woorde omgee woorde sagte woorde jy is vasgevang in my.

 Dan die geklingel van n ketting wat breek jou gebreekte lyf, n siel stukkend vertrap, sak jy weg in n sinkbad in die stof. Sag gebad in die land van melk en heuning. Toegevou in meter en meters goud sag om jou lyf. Jou oe kyk na my vir n oomblik was jy daar. Dankbaar vir jou!,  witman ongeag jou kleur elke dag vir jare, myle en myle ver, het my gebabbel in die wind geloop soek na jou, tot jy my kon hoor, my roep in stile na jou. Jy het my gehoor jy het my kom gesoek en op n dag het jy my,  die malvrou uit kettings kom red, en die wereld gewys ek is net n Ovahimba vrou, vasgevang in my eie stiltes, ou jare se drome en tyd….

… her name was Ndjinaa         

 (freely translated – emdt.)

There is a storm brewing in my heart.

Like a Simpson;

I have a passion; a dream.

Then I see her,

An animal chained to the dust.

A heap of bones, shattered.

Wild eyed, the wind carry her troubled babble,

They laugh; they are scared,

The crazy old woman.

I look at her and in tired eyes

I hear her begging in a world of quiet and hurt.

We trade harsh words

Caring words

Soft words.

In me, you are captured.

Then finally,

Metal chains are cut.

Your broken body,

A trampled soul,

Eases into a sink bath on a dry earth.

Softly bathed in a world clothed with milk and honey,

Cradled around your body, meters of gold.

For a moment you are visible in tired eyes.

Thankful for you; white man!

Regardless of colour,

My babble were carried on the wind

Days, years… for miles and miles

It went to find you, white man.

You heard me,

You heard my silent cry for help.

You came looking for me

And then you came to save a crazy old woman in chains

And showed the world

An ordinary Ovahimba woman

Caught in her own silence,

In years of dreams and time gone by…

(If you have missed the story of Ndjinaa, please click here)

The Story of Chief Petrus (6)

The Story of Chief Petrus & 2014 in Review (Final)

He was on the brink of receiving a government loan to start-up a massive workshop in Okahandja when a mysterious disease took hold of him. Since then Namibia’s state doctors has been keeping him on a strict diet of Hadol without ever referring him to a specialist. And so this has continued for nine years…

There on the pavement in front of the Arts & Craft Centre I call the offices of Neurologist Dr Vaja Tjajirua. After explaining who I am, his secretary tells me that they can only help with an opeing in February 2015, but if he goes to the state hospital in Katatura on Tuesdays, Petrus can see the Dr Vaja there as he works there every Tuesday.

The following Tuesday Izak (Chief Petrus’ son) calls me from Katatura State Hospital after explaining to me what the they don’t want to help Petrus. I get on the phone with the nurse on call and she then tells me that Petrus has to return to the Okahandja State Hospital where he needs to get a reference from the doctor to come to Katatura. If I was a car, my gasket would have blown. For the last nine years Chief Petrus has visited the Katatura State Hospital and not once was he referred to Dr Vaja. Now he needed a referral?! I begged and I pleaded, but they could not help Chief Petrus without a referral.

Having calmed down, I called the doctor’s offices again. The secretary assured me that she has never heard of such a thing as needing a reference. In the four years that they have worked at the Katatura State Hospital, this has not happened once. (How was this possible?!)

I called Izak again, but no luck. They simply refuse to help him. Fortunately the secretary calls as they have had a cancellation and Chief Petrus can see the doctor the very next day. ADN decides to sponsor Chief Petrus’ consultation fees and book the appointment.

On the 17th November 2014 I return to Okahandja and go to see Chief Petrus and Izak. According to Izak, Dr Veja welcomed them like family. He sent Chief Petrus back to the Katatura State Hospital for a MRI and blood tests on the 8th December. He also told them that the medicine that Chief Petrus was using, was the wrong medicine (really?!).

I am yet to hear from them again but I sure will keep you posted. All that I know as I write this is that Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia will fight harder than ever in 2015 to win the struggle for people with dementia in Namibia.

Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia is excited about 2015. We look forward to all the new moves and also the struggles. If you would like to become part of our small family, please contact us.

All the best,

Berrie Holtzhausen

The Story of Chief Petrus (5)

The Story of Chief Petrus

At the end of our research trip (2014 Review – Part 4) we stopped at Okahandja’s Craft market so that Susanne could buy a few souvenirs.

As Susanne ‘shopped’ I told the owner of the stall, Black Jack, who we were and what we did. He immediately said that this sounds like this sounds all too familiar. He called Chief Petrus, who opened these stalls 35 years ago. As we talked to Chief Petrus, I noticed that his right hand made uncontrolled movements and that he licked his lips as he spoke. Unfortunately we could not talk for long as we had to get to Windhoek in time for Susanne’s flight back home.

A few months later I had to meet Michaela Fink from the University in Giessen, in Windhoek. On my return home I stopped in Okahandja and went looking for Black Jack. Having found Black Jack, he introduced me to the Chief’s son, Izak. Izak showed me the Chief’s green card. Here in Namibia a green card is not your ticket to the United States. It is a ‘file’ on which all state hospitals and doctors record prescription medicine etc. Every state patient thus has a green card.

It was no surprise to find that since 2005, Chief Petrus has been on Hadol (Haloperidol). This is the most common drug that the doctors throughout Namibia prescribe to any patient that has the slightest brain dysfunction. To me, this means that Chief Petrus has been chained in chemical chains for nine years! Nine years in which his quality of life has been stolen while people get rich from selling these horrible drugs. Let me explain myself.

Chief Petrus was (and possibly still is) an incredible sculptor. He not only created jobs for thousands by starting the Okahandja Arts & Craft Market, he also sculpted three life size rhinoceroses. One is in Germany, the second at a lodge close to Kimberly (South Africa) and another at Molopo Lodge close to Upington (South Africa).

He was on the brink of receiving a government loan to start-up a massive workshop in Okahandja when a mysterious disease took hold of him. Since then Namibia’s state doctors has been keeping him on a strict diet of Hadol without ever referring him to a specialist. And so this has continued for nine years…

The Result?

Chief Petrus’s right hand shakes so badly that he can hardly work. He is still the Chief, but his dreams and many that he has helped, was destroyed in 2005 with the first prescription of Hadol and irresponsible practise of medicine. People that are seen as poor and useless, they have no right to proper medical attention. I can never really know what Chief Petrus has meant to so many people and what he still means, but I am about to fight for every bit of right he has.

chief petrus

2014: The Year in Review (4)

2014: The Year in Review (4)

2014 was also a year of new beginnings and new projects. Like the first dementia friendly shop in Henties Bay.

In 2014 we also started with intense research on dementia in Africa.

There was the research trip to the Zambezi districtADN with Susanne. On this trip a very important connection was formed with the University of Namibia that will hopefully lead to a new course for nurses in 2016.

During our research trip we discovered that HIV/Aids is possibly a bigger cause of dementia in Africa than Alzheimer’s Disease. We also discovered that a lot of HIV/Aids patients stop using their medicine because the pills give them stomach problems due to the fact that they cannot afford a plate of food per day. And secondly, Susanne and I came to the conclusion that the pills are sold in order to buy food.

We met Leopoldine in the Kavango region who possibly has HIV/Aids related Dementia. Her family sees her as a witch because of her hallucinations and other strange behaviour. They believe that Leopoldine must starve to death so that the evil spirits in her can also die. Needless to say, she has no food and therefore cannot take her medicine. Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia has thus organised that she receives at least one plate of food per day to enable her to take her medicine.

At the end of our research trip we stopped at Okahandja’s Craft market so that Susanne could buy a few souvenirs. Here we met Black Jack and Chief Petrus who opened the market 35 years ago. But this is a story on its own.

Until next time…

2014: The Year in Review (3)

2014: The Year in Review (3)

What we discovered:

It came to light that many Africans and also the world seems to think that brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Bodies etc. does not exist here in Namibia (Africa). But why?

The first reason I formulated one day after randomly meeting a German tourist in Etosha. He stopped next to me, rolling down his window and looked at the sticker on my door. He said: “Am I really reading what I think I am reading?” I asked him what it is he thinks he is reading. He asked: “Is there dementia in Africa?” I laughed as I responded: “Well, in Africa, like all over the world, people have brains. And if you have a brain, you can get brain diseases.” He was somewhat embarrassed but then explained himself by saying that from his medical background he knows that Africans and especially here in Namibia, there is a very low life expectancy (57 for men and 59 for women). So how can there be brain diseases? Well, you see, brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are not limited to the aged. This is a fairly common misconception and secondly, the life expectancy is an average brought down by a very high infant mortality rate. So yes, people do get old in Namibia (Africa) and no, it is not only the elderly that suffers from brain diseases.

The second reason is that people from around the world seem to think that the black African cultures have not discovered the Western world’s foods and medicines. (This is only my perception and not based on any facts.) And since the rest of the world is discovering what all the food and medicine do to our systems, they think that Africans cannot possibly have the same problems as they don’t eat and drink like they do. The truth is that our black cultures are using and abusing the same food and medicines that the rest of the world is using, but without the necessary precautions.

To be Continued….

2014: The Year in Review (2)

2014: The Year in Review (2)

The visitors:

The Swedish film crew that I took to Epupa so that they could film and capture Ndjinaa’s life story. The same film crew who then incidentally disappeared with all the material and has never been heard from again. It was my first experience of the “world” seeing Africa as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Then there was Professor Reimer Grunemeyer and Doctor Michaela Fink from the University of Giessen whom I also took up to Epupa to spend some time at the dementia village. We (Koos and I), taught Prof Reimer how to drink whisky and he exchanged his old faithful cap for an Epupa Falls Lodge one to the surprise of his colleagues. (His old red cap now hangs in Koos’s office among dozens of others which he has been collecting as souvenirs.)

There was also the debate with three witch doctors from Angola that must have been quite an experience for the German sociologists present. Especially when I confronted the witch doctors and told them that they were mere conmen using the superstitions of Africans to collect goats, chickens etc. for their own profit. I still don’t understand why the professor was so upset?

And in between:

ADN started to communicate to different towns about becoming dementia friendly. At the end of the year I have visited Okahandja, Gobabis, Outjo, Henties Bay and finally also Maltehohe.

Henties Bay Spar Staff

And of course there was the usual fights that happens within and outside any organisation in the world.

To be continued…


2014 : The Year In Review (1)

2014: The Year in Review

As we started 2015 in fifth gear, it is important for Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia to look back at 2014 and recognise our achievements and our highlights as well as the pitfalls to learn and look forward to another year of endless surprises and achievements.

What we remember:

We remember a Kaputu that got very ill and was taken to Opuwo State Hospital. From here she just disappeared and we eventually found her in the Oshakati State Hospital in Ward 16 on a very thin ledge between life and death.

But we also remember the day that I, Berrie, had the privilege to return her to the Omaramba. When she finished her psychotic pills, Koos and I decided not to replace them or to return her to the Opuwo State Hospital.

Koos kept me up to date with Kaputu’s slow but sure revival and renewed strength. She started talking and then to eat and drink by herself. Then she started going to the bush to collect berries. The highlight came when she took berries from her collection and put some in Koos’s shirt pocket on one of his visits.

We remember how we started to take fencing and all the accessories to our new location. Mopani poles were cut and prepared for the border of Mbakutuka Komapando (MK). Gabriel worked very hard to finish the fence after Koos delivered the gates for the first ever Himba Dementia Village.

And then there was the Saturday in March that the foreigners helped us move the tented village where Ndjinaa, Kaputu and the three care workers (Tjauriza, Nancy & Venoo) have stayed for the last fourteen months to MK. On that hot Saturday Ndjinaa taught me how to listen. (You can read the full story here).

To be continued…


The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Part 5)

The InDuna & witchdoctors of Bukalo (Zambezi Region, Namibia)

Written by Berrie Holtzhausen, 21st August 2014

I personally learned the following from our four days in the Zambezi Region:

  1. Dementia in Namibia (probably Africa) is caused mainly by HIV AIDS.
  2. The perception of the world that dementia is only found among the elderly, is proven wrong in Namibia.
  3. Everything in life, from draughts, the loss of cattle through wildlife and even the reason why some people succeed in life and others don’t, are blamed on bewitching.
  4. There are two kinds of witchdoctors. A) The traditional healer that heals through natural medicine. B) One that bewitches other people and controls the environment/nature.
  5. Witches are dangerous. Four witchdoctors are needed to confirm that someone is a witch.
  6. Every family has a witch(es) as all families have diseases, death and tragedies. And as you can only bewitch a family as a witch, you are a witch. This makes it possible to identify a witch in two ways: a) Someone in the family that has dementia or b) Someone in the family that is more successful than the rest.
  7. Almost everyone that we spoke to, belonged to some church or other but they all still believed in bewitching.
  8. The idea of bewitching inside and outside the church are basically the same, it is only the terminology that differs.
  9. My idea that ‘the success of bewitching lies in the brain of the one that believes in it’ is becoming truer to me.

I do hope to gather more information on all of the above in the Kavango Region as well, as in Namibia, the Kavango and Ovahimba Regions are considered the most powerful bewitching areas.