Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia wants to publish the below letter for a number of reasons.
No 1 – We need to get the message out there.
No 2 – The struggle is so similar that it hurts.
And that is enough reason for us to help Rosetti Care in Nigeria. Please take time to read the below and help us to help them spread the word.
Attempts at creating a National dementia strategy for Nigeria
I posted the article below on Facebook to jolt Nigerians into waking up and joining the rest of the world in the fight against Dementia (most seem to think that it is a “white man’s” disease!) The stigma is so entrenched, only two Nigerians ”liked” the posting, and only one Nigerian made a comment!
Lunacy, Witchcraft, and other Myths – what defines dementia in Nigeria
People acting out of the ordinary must be mad, or possessed by evil spirits and are therefore witches. Mad people and witches are non people; they are ‘less’ than human; they are faceless vermin to be easily discarded. Methods of discarding non people, lesser humans, faceless vermin: Friends and family dump them far away from home, somewhere they cannot be recognised or traced back to their roots. Places where they are nameless, faceless vermin, where they are either struck by fast moving vehicles and left to die with people passing by and doing nothing to help them; or where they are stoned/burnt to death as witches especially for talking to themselves and to people nobody else can see; or for acting irrationally. It only takes one person to point them out as witches for a crowd to quickly gather… and then there is no way of stopping the ‘mob justice’
Affluent families tend to lock theirs away from the community to avoid stigma. They pretend and tell friends or enquirers that their afflicted relative has travelled abroad, “gone away”. You see, madness and witchcraft are said to run in the family. Nobody marries into a family thus tainted and afflicted.
The Dementia Activist
For over two years now, I have been working hard raising dementia awareness in Nigeria mainly in order to remove the stigma and help persons with dementia and their loved ones understand the situation in which they find themselves. It is not easy living with dementia in any country, but it definitely is frighteningly fatal in Nigeria.
I had asked Alzheimer’s Society to roll their Dementia Friends programme (which is a huge success in the UK) into Nigeria as part of that initiative. After all Dementia is a global issue. I explained to them that the programme will slot in nicely into my Dementia Awareness plans for Nigeria, and that their training resources will provide current and added support. Of course, Nigeria will need to translate most of the resources into Nigerian languages (there are over 250), and put a Nigerian “slant” on them. After over a year of failed attempts at convincing the Alzheimer’s Society to go global with their awareness resources, I gave up, only to learn a couple of months ago that Canada and the Netherlands are now running Dementia Friends programme!
Prior to finding that out, I had approached the global Purple Angel for assistance. I like the fact that it was founded and run by PWDs with direct experience of Dementia, which means other PWDs will relate easily with them. I feel honoured that they appointed me as Head of Operations, as well as an Ambassador of Purple Angel in Nigeria. In turn, I have so far appointed 15 Ambassadors (5 of these are professors, 3 are doctors and one is in the Senate) with 22 more in the pipeline. There are 36 States in Nigeria plus the Federal Capital Territory. The aim is to have one Ambassador each for each state and the FCT. This will ensure that not only will dementia awareness be raised all across Nigeria, but PWDs and their loved ones will feel they have some sort of local support no matter how minimal at the beginning. There is a plan to further divide the entire country into 6 or 8 zones with each zone having a Co-ordinator whose role it will be to relay feedback and to cascade updated training to their respective zones.
Everything takes time in Nigeria! People here have expressed surprise at how fast we are moving. There is also our politics with capital P and small p. Too many tribal and societal issues. I don’t want to be seen to be prejudiced or “tribalistic”. People in high places who want in don’t have the time to go on campaign, and others have time but not the required access. Some States are embracing awareness faster than others, and it will be those slow ones that will complain later that they are being hard-done-by.
At the rate we are going, we will have more than one Ambassador in some States. I am mindful of ruffling feathers in those cases. So I have to ensure the multiple Ambassadors can work together, not against one another, otherwise the name Purple Angel might be damaged in the power struggle that might ensue. This is one of the reasons why I am advocating dividing the country into 6 or 8 non-political zones with each zone having a zonal co-ordinator. The hope is that the Nigerian government will very soon notice our activities and will want to claim it as their initiative, especially when the rest of the world asks what Nigeria has been doing about Dementia.
The Nigerian Purple Angel Ambassadors have been holding events at physical locations as well as online, where we try to raise awareness and enlighten participants. We now have 4 Facebook pages dedicated to enlightening Nigerians on dementia related issues. The FB pages are: Dementia Nigeria, Dementia Care Society of Nigeria DCSoN (closed group), Purple Angel Dementia Awareness Nigeria, and Purple Angel Ambassadors Nigeria (private group). It is heartening to see the traffic on these FB pages, and the fact that most of the postings are regularly shared. This means that those who are still reticent in contributing to the discussions (due to stigma) are nonetheless sharing the information with friends and families.
I have also woven the our activities around such global events like, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Alzheimer’s Month, Mental Health Awareness, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Children Day, etc. I host these events at my facility, as well as arrange for some marches through towns and villages. We take the opportunity to raise Dementia awareness at these events. We are gearing up for Nigeria to become a part of the Age Friendly Communities and Cities!
I am rather proud that we have the interest that we have, bearing in mind that Nigerians are not normally known to be involved in projects that do not reward them financially. The Ambassadors know that this is purely voluntary with no wage attached, and yet they want in!
As I have demonstrated, it does not require millions of UK pounds, or unscrupulous individuals with begging bowls running to the rest of the world for handout to raise awareness in Nigeria. It just needs local people who are willing to spare some of their time and energy to keep the ball rolling. Although I must admit the fact that I have been funding all these activities out my own money.
The Nigerian Ambassadors we have at present have agreed on future plans to raise funds within Nigeria in order to better support PWDs and loved ones. The hope is that we can convince the Nigerian government to take on part of the funding sooner rather than later. For now, some Churches, Mosques, Schools and Colleges are allowing us free access to their facilities where we can have Memory Cafes. Some private hospitals have also given us the free use of their premises as well as their doctors and nurses for Memory Clinics. We are currently working on getting some of Nigeria’s billionaires to donate some residential facilities as well as outreach and support personnel for those who are destitute and who are trying to live with Dementia.
Not The End……..
|World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Ibadan – June 15 2015
To commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness day on 15 June 2015, Rossetti Care in association with Dementia Care Society of Nigeria and Dementia Nigeria teamed up with a local primary school to demonstrate the importance of older adults in a way that was both educational and fun for all.
“Growing up in Nigeria in the 60s the idea of elder abuse was inconceivable. But times change and in the hustle bustle of our fast developing nation some of the older adults are being left behind, neglected and ill-treated. This is a 21st century reality that needs to be addressed in Nigeria and throughout the world.” – Dementia Nigeria
Read more about WEAAD, Ibadan 2015 here.