Families caring for a loved one with dementia often find that as the condition progresses, not only does it become more difficult to provide the level of care required but the stress associated with full-time care also takes a toll on the family.

“Coming to terms with a diagnosis of dementia can be extremely painful, both for the individual and their family. While the prognosis differs from one individual to another, dementia remains an untreatable condition that becomes progressively harder to manage, particularly in the home environment,” says Ivan Oosthuizen, chief executive officer of Livewell Group, an organisation that specialises in dementia care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that dementia is a leading cause of disability and dependency among senior citizens the world over, with approximately 47 million people living with this condition globally. The WHO also notes that families caring for people with dementia face physical, psychological, social and economic stress due to the intensive nature of the care required.

“Dementia is very hard on families, and when a loved one is first diagnosed it is not easy to contemplate the tragic cognitive and physical consequences of the condition in later years. We know how daunting it can be to face up to the realities of dementia, and we therefore hold free monthly support groups where people can turn for advice from our team and empathy from others who are facing similar challenges.

“These sessions have highlighted for us that each family’s experience of dementia is unique. There is no simple answer to the question ‘when is it time to take the next step’ but, with individual circumstances and preferences in mind, we can provide reassurance and help families to address their loved one’s needs in their own time.”

Livewell Group provides a comprehensive range of services to support families and provide a comfortable and nurturing environment for people living with dementia. Oosthuizen notes that the transition to full-time residential care can be undertaken gradually, as the Livewell Villages in Bryanston and Somerset West both offer day care facilities.

“Family is central to the Livewell philosophy of care. Not only do we encourage residents’ loved ones to join in the stimulating activities on offer, but they are also welcome to come and enjoy a family meal in the homely environment of our dining room.

“Every resident becomes part of our close-knit Livewell family, and we also welcome their pets because we appreciate the joy and comfort that furry friends bring their owners, as well as the therapeutic value that interaction with pets has for our residents,” he explains.

The Livewell Villages have been specially designed to provide enabling and stimulating environments for people living with various stages of dementia. In addition to around-the-clock carers who are meticulously screened and specifically trained in caring for individuals with impaired memory and cognitive function, a team of companions also keep residents company through an activity plan that has been specially designed by Livewell’s occupational therapists.

“No one is left alone at Livewell, and everyone is treated with the highest degree of respect for their personal dignity. Family members are welcome anytime, and are also encouraged to help guide us in planning their loved one’s activities and meals to personalise day-to-day experiences in line with their preferences,” Oosthuizen elaborates.

Every detail of the Livewell environment is tailored to the particular needs of people living with dementia, from gourmet meals and snacks prepared in consultation with nutritionists to frail care facilities for those who require it.

“Our park-like gardens include special sensory sections that are designed to be stimulating and comforting with natural aromas, textures and colours. The security and individual care provided through our villages mean that residents are free to stroll the grounds and enjoy the serenity of the outdoors, or enjoy our indoor activities, such as pottery, music, painting or simply reminiscing with companions and other residents.”

Oosthuizen notes that few households are equipped to provide this level of highly specialised care for loved ones living with dementia. “We have made it our mission to optimise quality of life through incorporating aspects of global best practice in dementia care into every aspect of life at Livewell.

“For families who are struggling to cope with the effects of the condition, our message is that you are not alone; support is available. Those who are looking for either day care or full-time residential care, we wish to reassure them that we will welcome their loved one into our Livewell family and ensure that they feel right at home,” he concluded.