Time to bring dementia out of the shadows, says doctor

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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EXECUTIVE director of Alzheimer's Jamaica Dr Ishtar Govia says it is time to “bring dementia out of the shadows” in order to eliminate the stigma associated with the condition.
“Persons living with dementia are not crazy, senile, or gone off… . People living with dementia and their carers are not to be shunned or regarded as second-class citizens. We need more safe spaces,” she said.
Dr Govia was addressing the launch of Senior Citizens' Week by the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) last Friday at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
Dementia is an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of dementia cases globally.
Dr Govia explained that the brain functioning of people living with dementia, such as those living with Alzheimer's disease, gets progressively worse, causing them to have problems with memory, thinking, reasoning skills, behaviours, and mood.
She said that a coordinated national response to dementia is critical for Jamaica, given the projected exponential increase in persons living with the condition in the Caribbean region.
She said studies suggest that there may be up to 41,000 Jamaicans living with dementia, an increase from an estimated 19,000 in 2010.
She noted that a stakeholder workshop held in July, which focused on mapping the dementia care landscape in Jamaica, highlighted the need for increased national research, awareness and training around dementia.
The session was organised by Alzheimer's Jamaica, in collaboration with the Strengthening Responses to Dementia in Developing Countries (STRiDE) research project, and involved more than 50 stakeholders, including persons living with dementia and their carers, and representatives from the public and private sectors, and civil society.
Dr Govia said data from the stakeholder workshop and dementia care mapping exercise found that stigma reduction, multisectoral collaboration, protective policies, increased access to care and affordable medication are considered key for improving the lives of persons living with dementia in Jamaica.
Also highlighted was the need for greater sensitisation and increased services in sectors such as banking, law enforcement and the health sector.
Dr Govia said Alzheimer's Jamaica will be continuing its work with the STRiDE project to develop and deliver stigma-reduction programmes; and will also commence qualitative data collection focused on the cost of care provided by family members.
The organisation will also, in early 2019, launch its intergenerational innovations competition, which will target schools and encourage young persons to apply their creativity to the challenges facing people living with dementia and their carers.

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