New free support service for South Asian people affected by dementia – Rochdale Online

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Date published: 18 September 2023
The Sahara service team at the Alzheimer’s Society
The Alzheimer’s Society has introduced a new team of dementia advisors for Greater Manchester’s South Asian community – to tackle the stigma surrounding dementia, for which there is no word in most non-English languages.
The free and confidential ‘Sahara’ service – which means ‘support’ – is hoping to raise awareness of the condition and provide support for South Asian people affected by dementia.
In many South Asian communities, there is no word for dementia with people instead associating it with mental health. Due to there being no word for it in many languages, the condition can be seen as related to old age or poor mental health, or even possession by spirits or ‘black magic’ in some faiths and cultures.
In reality, dementia results from physical changes in the brain and is the name for a group of symptoms that commonly include problems with memory, thinking, problem solving, language and perception. In a person with dementia, these symptoms are bad enough to affect daily life.
Dementia amongst BAME communities is expected to rise seven to eight-fold in the next three decades, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia – and they often present late for help and support, or not at all.
Dementia is a growing problem in the UK, with 1 in 3 people born this year developing dementia in their lifetime. There are estimated to be around 2,000 people living with dementia in the borough of Rochdale.
Sahara’s dementia advisers all have ‘lived in’ experience of the illness and South Asian culture, and speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi.
Dementia adviser Shagufta Majid explained: “There is a lot of stigma attached to dementia in our community. A lot of families in the South Asian community will not seek the help and will tend to look after the family member and then when they get to crisis point it is too late
“We are here to support people living with dementia and their carers. In our community there is no word for dementia, so we are called Sahara, which means support, and reflects the vital role we play in offering assistance and care.
“Our team will be based in Greater Manchester and part of our role is to signpost the person with dementia and their carers to any community groups that are taking place locally.”
The Sahara team can provide a safe space to discuss concerns and questions about dementia, help people access services, and provide advice and information either via the telephone or in person.
If you need support, please contact the Sahara team by emailing or call 0161 470 6048.
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