If ever there was an appropriate day to launch my dementia blog, today is it: World Alzheimer’s Day, which falls on 21 September each year. In 2012, September became World Alzheimer’s Month. This is an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. The theme for 2017’s World Alzheimer’s Month is ‘Remember me’.
My mother is well-entrenched in Dementia Land. She hasn’t the faintest clue of what I’m busy with. If she had her faculties, she’d probably die of embarrassment and disown me. Yet, here I am, publishing my first ever blog to remember and honour her – as well as remember and honour your dearest loved ones. Keeping quiet about the cruelty of dementia won’t do any of us any good.
Let’s kick off with 10 facts about dementia.
- Is caused by damage to brain cells.
- Is a collective name for brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion.
- Is progressive, which means the symptoms gradually get worse over time.
- Is a leading cause of disability and dependency among the elderly. Eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life.
- Can even affect individuals under the age of 65 (young onset dementia).
- There are over 100 forms or causes of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease, followed by Vascular dementia. Other forms include dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia.
- Affects almost 50 million people worldwide.
- Has no cure, although treatment and support are available.
- Has overwhelming physical, psychological, social, and economic impact on carers, families and society.
- Is a major health issue which will have serious implications on services and health systems around the world as the world’s population grows older.
Stigmas and misinformation abound around the world. In rural parts of Africa, including South Africa, dementia is sometimes associated with witchcraft, which results in abuse of the elderly.
Dementia is “a global problem that requires global action.” According to the World Health Organization:
“People with dementia are frequently denied the basic rights and freedoms available to others. In many countries, physical and chemical restraints are used extensively in care facilities for elderly people and in acute-care settings, even when regulations are in place to uphold the rights of people to freedom and choice.
An appropriate and supportive legislative environment based on internationally-accepted human rights standards is required to ensure the highest quality of service provision to people with dementia and their carers.
The WHO recognizes dementia as a public health priority.
In May 2017, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025. It provides a comprehensive blueprint for action – for policy-makers, international, regional and national partners, and WHO – in areas such as: increasing awareness of dementia and establishing dementia-friendly initiatives; reducing the risk of dementia; diagnosis, treatment and care; research and innovation; and support for dementia carers.”
What does this mean for us? You and I have a role to play too:
- We need to create awareness so that our governments improve education and services for dementia patients and their carers.
- We need to make a noise so that large organizations will fund research into preventative and curative treatments.
- We need to offload and share so that we don’t become basket-cases in caring for our loved-ones!
You and I cannot afford to keep quiet about dementia. If you agree, please take a look at Alzheimer’s Disease International. And do consider sharing my blog post with your friends!