Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Senegal and Gambia, Trudy Stevenson, has called on those living with people battling Alzheimer’s to be humane and treat sufferers with love and respect as the disease robs the patient’s memory.
Ambassador Stevenson suffered a personal loss early this year when her husband, Jim, succumbed to the disease.
The Zimbabwe Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Association says an estimated 18,000 Zimbabweans are living with the brain disease, with thousands not receiving adequate care and support.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia conditions. It is a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Alzheimer's is estimated to contribute to nearly 70 percent of dementia cases. Generally people over 60 are most affected.
Dementia has no cure and or treatment to alter its progression, eventually destroying a person’s ability to carry out simple daily tasks.
Stevenson says her husband's forgetfulness during a vacation trip to the United Kingdom in 2008 led her to trying to find a diagnosis for what was causing the incidents she witnessed.
"After my husband's repeated cases of forgetfulness while on vacation where he forgot high value belongings at various places led me seek medical treatment as I knew that Jim just wasn't trying to annoy me that they had to be some medical cause to what was going on," said Stevenson.
Stevenson said Alzheimer’s disease requires caregivers to be very patient and loving towards those affected by the disease.
The ambassador said she got most of her support from the Zimbabwe Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Association, an organisation she recommends for those battling the disease and their families.
“Jim and I received a lot of support from ZARDA after the association was recommended to us by our doctor and psychiatrist from St. Giles after we received the diagnosis of my husband's illness," said Stevenson.
She said her husband battled Alzheimer’s for eight years and she credits the assistance she received from a helper who came from Zimbabwe to Senegal and assisted her throughout Jim's illness.
"I am very grateful for Wadzi our helper who came from Zimbabwe and became part of the family, helping us to care for Jim during his good and bad days, as Zimbabweans we take care of our own and we don't believe in sending people to institutions," said Stevenson.