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United in caring – Rand Aid dementia awareness walk

People of varied abilities had one thing in common when they united for a fundraising walk in September – they all sported large smiles.

Rand Aid’s Thornhill Manor Retirement Village hosted the event. Fifty Thornhill residents – largely in good health and leading an active lifestyle, and 30 residents from Rand Aid’s Thembalami Care Centre – all in need of care, came together to forge friendships and raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases.

The walk took place in Thornhill Manor’s beautiful grounds on September 21, which was World Alzheimer’s Day, and was the culmination of a series of events held to promote the message that ‘My friend with Alzheimer’s is still my friend’.

“Most of us know someone who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, whether it’s touched our own family or a friend’s loved ones,” says Karen Griessel, Thornhill Manor’s social worker.

She explains that Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, which means it gets worse over time and the person affected eventually loses the ability to accomplish daily tasks.

Memory loss, which involves frequently forgetting names, words, or new information, is typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s will have the following symptoms: Confusion with time or place; trouble planning, organising, or solving problems; communication struggles; misplacing things; and the inability to retrace steps,” she says.

“A big thank you to Jackie Scott, our deputy manager who worked hard behind the scenes organising the events, and to resident Vicky Keenan, a trained occupational therapist, for her continued passion for helping people.”

Jackie says that Vicky’s creative flair was evident in the purple cone hats worn on the day by the support staff and the purple ribbon necklaces that all participants wore. “The Alzheimer’s awareness ribbon is purple, representing the fight against the disease and the hope for a cure,” says Jackie.

Maps and signage marked the three different routes, ranging from 0.62km to 1.05km. A coffee machine was raffled off, to assist in raising additional funds, and was won by Beverley Walker.

“The day was a huge success, with all congregating in the park for tea, coffee, sandwiches and cream scones,” says Jackie. “Vicky was the brains behind the event – a huge thank you to her for all her hard work and passion.”

Over the past two years, several occupational therapy-aligned events have been held to foster connectedness between less abled Thembalami and Ron Smith Care Centre residents and Thornhill Manor’s residents.

In July 2022, residents from Thembalami were invited to join the Thornhill Manor Happy Chatters for a walk through the villages and a few games.

Last year’s Alzheimer’s walk on September 22 was a great success. Thornhill Manor, Thembalami and the Max Ordman Deaf Association joined forces to generate awareness around dementia and raise funds for their occupational therapy departments.

Thornhill Manor and Thembalami residents came together in February this year to play some occupational therapy games. The event was organised by Vicky. Also in February, Happy Chatters members got the opportunity to interact and socialise with Ron Smith Care Centre (RSCC) residents during the latter’s daycare OT activities

Then in July, some more Happy Chatters members joined in the fun at RSCC’s daycare centre, baking and decorating cupcakes.

  • Managing Alzheimer’s disease can feel overwhelming, especially with a new diagnosis, so it is important to reach out to a healthcare professional, Karen adds. “If you think you or a loved one may have dementia, visit your GP for a referral to a neurologist or a geriatrician,” she advises. Alzheimer’s SA website has great information, guidance, and help – go to

Rob Taylor’s ride-on lost battery power during the walk and he was happily assisted by Thornhill Manor deputy manager Jackie Scott (pushing) and pulled Elizabeth Binda of Thembalami (pulling).

The participants hailed from both Thornhill Manor and Thembalami Care Centre.

Jackie Scott (Thornhill Manor deputy manager) and Zabeth Zühlsdorff (Rand Aid’s GM Services and Advance Division).

Lynda Hopkins and her sister Denise, who was visiting from New Zealand.

Matron Paulina Namo from Thembalami Care Centre with resident Louisa Potgieter.

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