There is no word for dementia in Urdu. Sahara, meaning ‘support’ in Urdu, is the name of a new Alzheimer’s Society service for South Asian people affected by dementia, or worried about their memory, in Greater Manchester.
It’s free and confidential and is being led by Alzheimer’s Society project Manager, Naz Asghar, who believes that reaching out successfully to this community is all about cultural nuance. She says:
“The South Asian community, in general, has much lower awareness of dementia than the wider population, and so, many families have been struggling on alone, without getting the help they need and are entitled to.
“Stigma can be quite common, but the Sahara service is all about changing that. We’re sitting down with people in mosques, community groups and basically anywhere where they are comfortable. We’re listening to their stories and sharing their hospitality which often involves food with the Asian communities!
“I have a long career history in health and social care and have seen that one size doesn’t fit all. It’s really important to understand not only a community’s languages but its cultural context and differences and embracing those differences, and all of the non-verbal forms of communication that build trust and confidence. In building up our new service for the South Asian community we’ve worked hard to get the foundations right.
“We have a terrific team of Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Advisers who can speak the language and know the culture too. For example, we will speak to people with a degree of familiarity, calling them ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’ and we’ll spend time with them and accept their hospitality. These things all make a big difference.”
The Sahara team can provide a safe space to discuss concerns in English, Urdu or Punjabi. They can answer questions on dementia, help people to access services and provide advice and information on the phone or in person.