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First Dementia Care Mapper in Africa receives international award
2015-11-17

The first Dementia Care Mapper from Africa,
Dr Sanet du Toit.

Photo: iFlair Photography

“In one facility, four elders who needed minimal assistance to eat were provided with an opportunity to sit at a separate table, and enjoy their breakfast as preferred – that is, to spread bread with butter, jam or marmite; to add their own milk and sugar to their tea.”

Dr Sanet du Toit
described a scenario where staff members at an old-age home implemented recommendations she made following an observation she conducted.

“We do not think twice about doing this but, within institutional care settings, these ’normal’ routines are often replaced with practices that could be viewed as ‘time savers’. For example: everyone gets milky, sweet tea to drink,” she explains.

Yet, by creating an environment where the elderly living with dementia were at liberty to determine the amount of milk in their tea, active participation meant an improved well-being.

She was honoured with the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (IAHSA) Award for Excellence in Applied Research on 1 September 2015, at a joint conference held by the Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) and IAHSA in Perth.

This exceptional Occupational Therapist from the University of the Free State (UFS) emerged as the first Dementia Mapper from Africa. Dementia Care Mapping is a method used internationally to assess with the purpose of improving the quality of care given to residents in institutionalised settings.

The IAHSA award acknowledged her person-centered care training and research in South African residential care facilities while working at the UFS as a senior lecturer from 2003 to 2013. Currently, she is based at the University of Sydney, but remains an affiliated lecturer at the UFS Department of Occupational Therapy.

In 1992, she graduated with a BA in Occupational Therapy at the UFS, and went on to further her studies at various institutions. Also, she is one of the founding directors of the Eden Alternative South Africa, an advocacy for older persons’ rights within old-age homes. Over the years, Dr du Toit has won numerous awards for her research.

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