An increasing number of Barbadians, including middle-aged adults, are developing dementia, and the forced isolation that was part of the COVID-19 measures may be one of the contributing factors, according to president of the Barbados Alzheimer’s Association Pamelia Brereton.
Explaining that social isolation was one of the risk factors for developing dementia, she suggested that the separation of persons from family and friends caused by the various lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic “definitely” could have added to the growing numbers of persons being diagnosed with the illness.
Brereton also noted that as many elderly people continued to live solitary lives, the numbers would continue to grow.
“There are persons living in Barbados whose families are overseas. It might have been fine when they were leaving when a person was in their 40s and 50s but, when you get in your 60s, 70s and 80s with no one and you are alone, you can go into a depression because there is no one around, and I believe that is one of the things happening here,” she said.
“A lot of people are alone and they don’t get to see anyone until Sunday when they go to church; and then after church what happens?”
Noting that the onset of dementia was more commonly seen in the 60-65 age group, the association head said that people in Barbados in their 40s and 50s were now being diagnosed with the condition, a phenomenon which, she pointed out, is occurring across the globe.
“The risk factors are alcohol, depression, less education, hearing impairments, lack of physical activity, hypertension, air pollution, smoking, head injury, obesity and diabetes. Diabetes is one of the major ones as Alzheimer’s is now considered ‘Diabetes Type 3’. So, when you look at it, there are still a lot of unanswered questions,” she said.
While unable to give up-to-date figures since the last local count of people living with dementia stood at 4 087 in 2014, Brereton was insistent that these had increased significantly in the almost decade since.
“There is not one single person out there who has not met someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia…. We have an ageing population, so we will see a lot more people coming down with these illnesses,” she added.
As the world marked World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday, Brereton said people’s awareness about the condition was growing.
Activities planned for the month include a movie night at St Paul’s Church on Thursday night, and a health fair on Saturday at St Luke’s Church in St George from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
In addition, Brereton said the association will launch an online class called the Participation Programme in October, to educate caregivers on how to care for and cope with persons living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. She urged interested persons to contact the association.