In 2010, it was estimated that there were 35.6 million people in the world suffering with dementia, and it was further estimated that this figure will nearly double every 20 years to an estimated 65. 7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.
Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, made this disclosure today while delivering the feature address at a training seminar sponsored by the National Committee on Ageing in collaboration with the Barbados Alzheimer’s Association at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
He told the gathering that the issue was so serious that Alzheimer’s Disease International, a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom, has recommended that the World Health Organisation should declare dementia “a world health priority.”
“This information must be a cause for some disquiet given that earlier estimates had indicated substantially lower figures and rates of growth. Much of the increase is expected to take place in developing countries, such as Barbados which has a rapidly ageing population. Many individuals are now living longer and healthier lives and so the world population has a greater proportion of older people. Dementia mainly affects older people, although there is a growing awareness of cases that start before the age of 65,” Blackett said.
The Minister of Social Care said reports coming out of the geriatric hospital indicate that 54 per cent of elderly people suffer from dementia and stressed that the reality was that the emotional, social and economic cost of dementia were substantial.
“Costs relate to informal care (unpaid care provided by family and others), direct costs of social care provided by community care professionals, residential homes, and government institutions and the direct costs of medical care (the costs of treating dementia and other conditions in primary and secondary care institutions). In short, the care and cost of dementia put an incredible burden on society and the family; as well as the health-care solutions; so it must become a priority for us,” Blackett explained.
He recalled that on an earlier occasion he had urged Barbadians to desist from the growing practice of abandoning their elderly relatives at the Accident and Emergency Department and on the wards of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“Health practitioners have reported that many, many times some relatives refused to accept them back into their homes saying that they cannot care for them since they required continuous care at home and they find them unmanageable, and the like. We have recognised that indeed some persons are ill equipped in terms of the facilities at home, knowledge and the wherewithal to care for their elderly relatives, particularly those with dementia.
“In some instances fears, myths and unsubstantiated beliefs about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are responsible for a lot of this abandonment. Many myths surrounding dementia obscure our understanding of the issues facing our loved one who suffer from dementia diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The prevailing view is that people with dementia cannot understand what is going on,” Blackett explained. (NC)