Awareness and understanding of dementia among women in rural areas: HA-Sephapo, Mohale's Hoek, Lesotho.
Mokhosi, Mamatsie Margaret.
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Dementia is increasingly becoming a health issue that must be prioritised in national policies. With the increased life expectancy in both developed and developing countries, there is a high percentage of demented patients as it is highly associated with ageing. However, the prevalence is higher in ethnic communities in developing countries, especially amongst elderly women. As a mental health illness, dementia is not only a public health problem but is also linked with social challenges: dementia patients are victimised and stigmatised because of the symptoms presented by dementia. The purpose of the research was to assess awareness and understanding of dementia amongst women in the community of Ha-Sephapo. It investigated measures taken by the Lesotho Ministry of Social Development in raising awareness and understanding of dementia as a whole, and explored the understanding of dementia among women of Ha-Sephapo. The research study employed both an evaluative and qualitative research design and gathered data using semi-structured interviews, with open-ended questions for the participants. From the findings of the study, it was discovered that the Ministry of Social Development is not doing much to raise awareness and understanding of dementia in rural areas and to keep older women safe. It was also revealed from the participants' narratives that little is known about dementia as a mental health condition, and that they have not linked the illness to normal ageing. This lack of knowledge puts women in danger as some of the symptoms are related to witchcraft, in the minds of the community. Therefore, the researcher recommends that more programmes should be developed, not just by the Ministry of Social Development but also by involved stakeholders, to raise awareness and understanding of dementia among women in rural areas. This will help combat the victimisation and stigmatisation of older women showing some symptoms of dementia.