When people with dementia are perceived as witches. Consequences for patients and nurse education in South Africa.J Clin Nurs. 2018 Jan; 27(1-2):e169-e176.JC
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
To explore and describe the link between culture and dementia care with the focus on the influence of the belief in dementia as witchcraft and people with dementia as witches.
In South Africa, especially in townships and rural areas, dementia is often perceived as connected to witchcraft rather than to disease. Persons labelled as witches-mostly older women-may be bullied, ostracised, beaten, stoned, burned, even killed.
One strand of findings from a larger international study is presented with in-depth qualitative interviews of one close family member and seven nurses caring for patients with severe dementia in nursing homes in Tshwane in South Africa. A hermeneutic analytic approach was used.
Two main themes are found, namely "Belief in witchcraft causing fear of persons with dementia" and "Need of knowledge and education." Fear of and violence towards people with dementia are based on the belief that they are witches. Some of the nurses had also held this belief until they started working with patients with dementia. There is a great need for education both among healthcare workers and the populace.
The "witch" belief prevents seeking professional help. As nursing homes tend to be private and expensive, professional dementia care is virtually unattainable for the poor. Dementia needs a more prominent place in nursing curricula. Nurses as educators need to know the local culture and language to be accepted in the various communities. They need to visit families affected by dementia, give awareness talks in churches, schools and clinics and facilitate support groups for carers of people with dementia in the local language.
Improved nurses' education in gerontology and geriatric care is needed. Trained specialist nurses may work as mediators and help eradicate the witchcraft beliefs connected to severe dementia.