Facebook group assists people caring for loved ones with dementia

A Facebook support group that aims to provide a safe and accessible space for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia to connect with each other and occupational therapists experienced in dementia care has been launched by Livewell Villages, a dementia care facility in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“With increasing numbers of South Africans enjoying internet access and some 18 million of us now active on social media according to the ‘Digital in 2018’ annual report, we believe that through embracing this technology we will be able to help more people to cope with the demands of caring for loved ones with dementia,” says Ivan Oosthuizen, chief executive officer of Livewell.

“We see a tremendous opportunity for providing support and advice for caregivers all over the country, if not the world, whenever they feel the need to connect through this innovative Facebook support group.

“We understand that coming to terms with a dementia diagnosis, or dealing with the effects such progressive conditions may have on a loved one, requires considerable emotional strength. Even the most resilient among us may experience times when we feel uncertain or overwhelmed in the face of the daily stressors associated with dementia,” he adds.

It was with this in mind that Livewell Villages began hosting free support groups for caregivers and families that have loved ones living with dementia. Several support groups are hosted each month at both the Bryanston and Somerset West Livewell Villages, providing a safe and non-judgemental space for sharing experiences and coping strategies, as well as for experienced Livewell staff members and guest experts to impart practical advice that can help to improve quality of life, both for the person living with dementia and for caregivers.

According to Marike Coetzee, occupational therapist at the Somerset West Livewell Village, the support groups hosted at both facilities have been extremely well received, however they can only accommodate a limited number of people and are only accessible to those who live near to these physical locations.

“There are inevitable emotional and physical strains when one is caring for a beloved parent or spouse with dementia, and without adequate support this may take a toll on our relationships with the individual, with other family members and loved ones,” she says.

“Over time this can have a serious impact on the carer’s wellbeing, which in turn may detract from the quality of care they are able to provide.  However, empathetic support and opportunities to debrief with other people who are familiar with the complexities of looking after someone with dementia can be highly beneficial.”

It was with this in mind that Livewell Villages launched the free online Facebook support group to provide a space where people can engage with others who are involved in dementia care or caring for a loved one at home.  Livewell’s occupational therapists, who have experience in caring for people with dementia, provide expert commentary and feedback to supplement the participants’ discussions.

“The online support group is proving popular, providing a platform where people can share their stories with others who are in a position to empathise with them, or exchange advice and encouragement. People from across the country are able to interact on the subject of caring for a loved one with dementia, and hopefully feel a sense of comfort knowing that they are not alone in their experiences,” Coetzee adds.

To help protect the privacy of members, the Livewell Facebook support group is a closed group and interested individuals need to request access to join. This means that only members of the group will be able to see the discussions. To join the group, please visit www.facebook.com/groups/livewellvillages/ .

This online support group has a set of community guidelines in place, which are enforced to ensure all participants are treated with consideration, compassion and respect.

“Whether you need information about caregiving, are wanting to share your story or simply need to be in a safe environment to seek help, there is no need to feel alone. We are here for you,” Coetzee concluded. 


Digital in 2018 Annual Report available at: https://www.slideshare.net/wearesocial/digital-in-2018-in-southern-africa-86865907 (accessed 2 August 2018)