The greatest human instinct humans have is the ability to adapt! I want you to imagine yourself having a nightmare at night. It’s dark around you and you find yourself in a facility that resembles that of a hospital. In this facility, you find yourself dependent on others who tell you they are there to look after you. But you’re not sure…

You suddenly remember that you love going for walks. You remember that you love going for jogs and have completed many marathons and runs in your younger days. Imagine yourself as this person. Now imagine that you struggle to communicate your desires, that which you want to do and that which you need, to the people looking after you. But somehow, you manage to communicate to these people that you love getting out there on the road with one foot ahead of the other. You tell them that you’re ready to go for a walk. But they don’t seem to pay attention. This doesn’t bother you, because you’re so excited about your memories returning. You remember how you used to lay on bed and stretch your legs the night before your run. And so, as it gets dark outside you say good night to everyone and rest your body on your bed. As you lift your legs towards your head, you remember how this stretch made you stronger. ‘Tomorrow I’m going for a good walk.’ You say to yourself.

And so the morning comes, followed by the usual early activities. They come into your room to find you’ve already dressed yourself. Smiling, you point to your running shoes and say: ‘See! I’m ready to go for my walk.” You watch the perplexed face before you and listen to their response that makes no sense. You begin to think that with their illogical concern, you should be the one looking after them! But thankfully, they let you go. Freedom stretches before your feet as you follow it. You turn around to make sure they’re not following you. ‘I’m just going for a walk.’ You think to yourself. ‘Why are they so concerned over a walk? I’ve been doing it for years!’


Buddy, one of our residents, going for a long, supervised walk on the old dirt road

This morning, Buddy, one of our residents allowed us to further develop our understanding of ‘living with Dementia’ as well as ‘caring for Dementia.’ And we would like to share this with you.

Buddy has been improving remarkably both mentally and physically, and continues to do so, during his stay at the Jura Care Village. We have learnt so much from him. He no longer requires any ‘Dementia related’ medication nor any sleeping aid medication. Click here to see our ‘To Drug or Not To Drug?’ Blog. Perhaps the most profound teaching thus far, one which can assist in the improvement of all caring facilities and their approach to caring is found in one word: ‘Freedom’.

The Jura Care Team had two options when Buddy put on his running shoes. The first option, practiced most often in most care homes of South Africa, is ‘Control.’ The second option is ‘Adaptation.’ The former involves a short-sighted approach that will involve aggravation, agitation, loss of rapport and unfortunately, medication. The reasons for a care home choosing to enforce control can be the result of many factors including, but not limited to, lack of resources, lack of empathy, or lack of understanding. This approach offers very little, if any, emotional security and most often leaves the individuals, living with forms of Dementia, feeling trapped and imprisoned. The latter option involves a change in perception and perspective because it challenges the way most homes currently care for their residents. It requires that those caring for individuals, living with forms of Dementia, engage from an empathic point of view rather than a control point of view. And the way this is most easily achieved is through adaptation.


One of the many walking paths of the Jura Care Village

A Word About Adaptation

The scenario illustrated above should give you a very good idea of the various implications of caring for someone with forms of Dementia. At the Jura Care Village, we now constantly aspire towards adaptation. That is why Buddy went for a 3km long, supervised walk. Fortunately, the Jura Care Village has the resources to accommodate such an activity. Located on a 42 hectare estate, the Jura Care Village has ample walking paths available to our residents. However, the important thing to note is that Buddy didn’t know it was a supervised walk… Buddy didn’t know we were there with him every step of the way, because we stayed slightly out of sight. You see… As Buddy left the caring home, he told us not to go following him because he’s just going for a walk. Following him would have irritated him, resulting in him no longer feeling in control but instead, controlled.

This is the key to adaptation. There is no one way to care for someone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia. The ability of all carers and care models to be adaptable should become a driven attribute of each care home. This applies to every facet of the care home, every routine and to every procedure. Imagine yourself being woken up at 5 o’clock each morning… What emotions would this involve? Adaptation involves the freedom of the resident, meaning whether the resident wakes up at 5 o’clock or 8 o’clock, the importance is that the resident does so himself/herself.

Adaptation involves adapting to the way things were before the person developed Dementia. That is our primary goal with each resident here at the Jura Care Village. At the heart of our entire caring model is that one word: Adaptation. From food preferences to activities to emotional needs to bed times, it is a vital necessity that humanity realize that people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia still remain people. And no matter how impotent their senses become. No matter how impotent their mental capabilities become, they still breathe the same air that you do. Thus the Jura Care Village’s call to all humanity urges us all to adapt our current ways and see the beauty within their eyes, even if they are closed. It is us who need to understand, not them. And it is us who need to change, not them.

Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it.

– Lao Tzu


“I’m getting stronger.” Buddy told us after his walk.

Note: Buddy, one of the Jura Care Village residents, as well as his daughter, have agreed to allow the Jura Care Village to write about Buddy’s life as a Jura Care Village resident. Our purpose for doing so is for educational and inspirational purposes. Serving to increase the current understanding of Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia and especially, how to care for people with this neurodegenerative disease. Each resident at the Jura Care Village can either allow or disallow the team to write and blog about them. The choice remains in the hands of the residents and their families, respectively.