A FACEBOOK support group that aims to provide a safe and accessible space for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia to connect with each other and occupational therapists experienced in dementia care has been launched by Livewell Villages, a dementia care facility in Cape Town and Johannesburg. According to Marike Coetzee, occupational therapist at the Somerset West Livewell Village, the support groups hosted at both facilities have been extremely well received, however they can only accommodate a limited number of people and are only accessible to those who live near to these physical locations. “There are inevitable emotional and physical strains when one is caring for a beloved parent or spouse with dementia, and without adequate support this may take a toll on our relationships with the individual, with other family members and loved ones,” she says.“Over time this can have a serious impact on the carer’s wellbeing, which in turn may detract from the quality of care they are able to provide. However, empathetic support and opportunities to debrief with other people who are familiar with the complexities of looking after someone with dementia can be highly beneficial.” It was with this in mind that Livewell Villages launched the free online Facebook support group to provide a space where people can engage with others who are involved in dementia care or caring for a loved one at home. Livewell’s occupational therapists provide expert commentary and feedback to supplement the participants’ discussions. “The online support group is proving popular, providing a platform where people can share their stories with others who are in a position to empathise with them, or exchange advice and encouragement. People from across the country are able to interact on the subject of caring for a loved one with dementia, and hopefully feel a sense of comfort knowing that they are not alone in their experiences,” Coetzee adds. To help protect the privacy of members, the Livewell Facebook support group is a closed group and interested individuals need to request access to join. To join the group, please visit www.facebook.com/groups/livewellvillages/ . The online support group has a set of community guidelines in place, which are enforced to ensure all participants are treated with consideration, compassion and respect. “Whether you need information about caregiving, are wanting to share your story or simply need to be in a safe environment to seek help, there is no need to feel alone. We are here for you,” Coetzee concluded. — Supplied.