An estimated 4,000 people are living with dementia in Barbados and health officials are concerned that the number could increase in the coming years.
Acting Minister of Health Senator Patrick Todd made that disclosure this morning at a training workshop held for carers of Alzheimer’s patients, as part of activities marking World Alzheimer’s Day.
He told the gathering that the disease had reached epidemic proportions, and there were concerns that more young people were suffering from the disease.
“No longer is it affecting only those over 65, but persons in their 40s and 50s are also being affected. It goes without saying that these are persons who can still make a contribution to the economy of Barbados,” Todd said.
He added that all measures must be taken to extend the quality of life of persons affected with Alzheimer’s. In that regard, he said Government had introduced comprehensive elderly care, rehabilitation services and institutional care.
“In preparing our society to meet the social and health care needs occasioned by a rapidly aging society, we must be cognizant of the factors which are integral to the achievement of a better health and quality of life among older persons. These factors include the need for physical activity, good eating habits, social interaction and a sense of belonging,” Todd said.
He also stressed that early intervention provided the opportunity for people with Alzheimer’s to plan better, including making arrangements for future care and putting their finances in order.
Meanwhile, President of the Barbados Alzheimer’s Association Pamelia Brereton urged Barbadians to educate themselves about dementia, in order to better care from individuals suffering from it.
She said that dementia was a major cause of disability and dependency among older people worldwide, and had a major impact on the sufferers as well as their families.
Brereton added that the cost of the disease on governments, families and communities, and the loss in productivity for countries worldwide were significant.
“In 2015, dementia costs were estimated at US$818 billion, equivalent to 1.1 per cent of global gross domestic product, ranging from 0.2 per cent for low and middle income countries 1.4 per cent for high income countries.
“By 2030, the cost of caring for people with dementia worldwide has been estimated at US$2 trillion, a total that could undermine social and economic development globally and overwhelm health and social care systems specifically,” she said.
According to Brereton, the indirect cost of care incurred by informal carers and family members resulted in millions of people living in chronic poverty.
She added that lack of awareness and understanding of the illness were often to blame for the prevalence of the disease, as that led to stigmatization and barriers to diagnosis and care.