Someone develops dementia every three seconds in the world

Azlan Othman

Demensia Brunei (dB) presented the findings and results of the global Survey Attitudes Around Dementia in the World Alzheimer’s Report 2019 on September 21

Results from the world’s largest survey on attitudes to dementia reveal a startling lack of global knowledge around dementia, with two-thirds of people assuming that the disease is a normal part of ageing rather than a neurodegenerative disorder.

The report reveals the results of the largest attitudes to dementia survey ever undertaken, with responses from almost 70,000 people across 155 countries and territories. Analysis of the study was carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The report reveals that stigma surrounding dementia is preventing people from seeking information, advice, support and medical help that could dramatically improve their length and quality of life for what is one of the world’s fastest growing causes of death globally. The number of people living with dementia is forecast to more than triple, from over 50 million currently, to 152 million by 2050.

The report finds that around 50 per cent of people living with dementia feel ignored by healthcare professionals (physicians and nurses), while 33 per cent of the respondents thought that if they had dementia, they would not be listened to by health professionals or doctors.

The report also revealed that one out of five people attribute dementia to bad luck, almost 10 per cent to God’s will and two per cent to witchcraft, and that every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia.

Datin Jacqueline Wong, dB’s Honorary Advisor said, “Evidence suggests that when people living with dementia and their families are well prepared and supported, the initial feelings of shock, anger and grief are balanced by a sense of reassurance and empowerment, so the campaign’s focus is on increasing conversations around dementia globally.”

Interestingly, 95 per cent of participants think they could develop dementia in their lifetime and over two-thirds of people (69.3 per cent) would take a genetic profiling test to learn whether they are at risk of dementia (even though there is currently no disease-modifying treatment).

However, two thirds of people still think dementia is a natural part of ageing. The fear of developing dementia is high globally, but the true understanding of the disease is low. This is worrying, as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are the fifth leading cause of deaths globally.

Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) launched its global campaign ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’ on September 1, to mark the beginning of a month of awareness. The campaign is based on the understanding that talking about dementia helps tackle the stigma, normalises language and encourages people to find out more, seek help, advice and support.

Meanwhile dB, ADI and over 100 dementia-related association member countries commemorated the 8th World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21.

Datin Jacqueline Wong said, “The strengthening responses to dementia in developing countries (STRiDE) project will give a deeper insight into the economic challenges related to public health and dementia. This will better prepare us for the negotiating challenges ahead.

“The number of people living with dementia is growing, creating a challenge with which many countries in the developing world are ill-equipped to cope. This funding will enable researchers and Alzheimer’s and dementia-related organisations to collaborate and to understand what is working, and what is not, in order to improve dementia care where it is most needed,” she added.

Formed on March 20, 2018, dB is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is focussed on the support, care and rights of persons with dementia. Its objectives are to advocate the cause of dementia, raise community awareness on dementia, provide information regarding dementia for the public in Brunei Darussalam, and to improve the standard of care for individuals with dementia in this country.

As an ADI member representing Brunei, dB is working closely with ADI and WHO to achieve the seven action areas, as dementia is a huge priority that is still poorly understood by too many people both regionally and internationally.