Do you have someone in your family or in your community who has something called dementia? Some people also call it Alzheimer’s disease, one of the many types of dementia.

Lots of people know someone who has this problem.

If you know someone who has dementia:

They may act or talk funny sometimes

They may have trouble remembering things, no matter how hard they try

They might have trouble knowing where they are

They might choose funny clothes to wear, or lose things a lot

Sometimes they may not remember who other people are

They might even forget YOUR name!

“Dementia” is a big word that means that when people get older, some people start to have a problem with their brains. This problem means that they can’t remember things and they get confused. It’s like when you first wake up in the morning and you’re not sure where you are or what day it is. People with dementia might feel that way a lot of the time.

It’s nobody’s fault that some older people get this problem. The doctors don’t know how to fix it yet, but they are working on it. It may take a long time to find a way to fix it.   People with dementia are not witches or possessed by their ancestors – dementia can happen to anyone and is an illness like diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases.   The only difference is that there is no cure that can make them better – we can only be supportive and caring toward them and those that look after them who may need help.

Dementia doesn’t happen to children, and it’s not catching – nobody can get it from someone else. It only happens to some people, and it only happens when they get much older.

If your family member had dementia, then sometimes the way they act may make you feel sad or frightened. Dementia can be sad and frightening. Grownups have those feelings about it too. Nobody wants it to happen, but sometimes it does.

Sometimes it can really help to talk to other people about how you feel when your relative has dementia. Be sure to ask all the questions you are thinking about. You can talk to your parents or teachers or special friends about it. If a grownup doesn’t know the answers you need, ask them to help you find out.


(Including Alzheimer’s disease)

 Recent memory loss that affects job skills

Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Problems with language

Disorientation of time and place

Poor or decreased judgement – e.g., crossing roads, driving, or working with machinery

Problems with abstract thinking – planning activities

Misplacing things on a constant basis

Changes in mood or behaviour

Changes in personality

Loss of initiative

In conclusion – Dementia goes through many stages which are hard to deal with:

They will not know who you are.

They will forget how to speak.

They will forget how to walk.

They will lose the ability to use the toilet and the bathroom.

They will become bedridden.

They will depend on you and others in the community to help them.

Finally, they will pass on and die.

When you meet someone with dementia –

  •     Always try and be HELPFUL
  •     Always try to UNDERSTAND what they are trying to say – they may become FRUSTRATED, but try and see what they are trying to say or do
  •     Always ensure that they are SAFE and not in any DANGER (like wandering around and getting lost)
  •     Look out for people who ABUSE people with dementia and report it to your parent, teacher, the police or a caring adult who can help
  •     Remind your friends to RESPECT people with dementia 
  •     Be an example to your friends so that they know how to treat someone with dementia


  • MOCK or LAUGH AT someone with dementia
  • ABUSE someone with dementia 
  • Take or steal their money or belongings
  • Physically abuse them by locking them up or tying them to chairs
  • Verbally abuse them by shouting or disrespecting them

With thanks to Dementia SA 

If you know of or suspect that a relative or friend may have Alzheimer’s or dementia, reach out to Dementia South Africa for support and advice here


Tell us: Have you ever met someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Read more here on dementia