Majority of Brunei Alzheimer’s, dementia sufferers undiagnosed

James Kon

It is estimated that there are 1,200 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and 2,000 suffering dementia in Brunei Darussalam. A majority of them are unidentified.

According to findings by Geriatric and Palliative Unit of Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital in 2015, 36.8 per cent of geriatric patients have dementia and additional 20 per cent may have cognitive impairment needing further assessment before giving diagnosis.

The rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country also led to increasing rate of vascular dementia patients.

This was revealed by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in a message on Sunday to mark World Alzheimer’s Month and World Alzheimer’s Day. The awareness campaign called on the public to talk more about dementia and better understanding to overcome stigma on the condition. The minister said dementia is a group of brain related diseases that can affect memory, thinking, behaviour and feeling.

For patient with dementia, 90 per cent of them are Alzheimer dementia and vascular dementia.

The signs and symptoms of dementia are memory loss, difficulty in speaking accurately or understanding other people’s words, confusion, difficulty in carrying out daily tasks and experience changes in personality and withdrawal from social activities. To date, there is no cure but treatment, advice and support are available for patients and their family members
or caregivers.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar. PHOTO: MOH

Brunei, the minister said, marks World Alzheimer’s Month in September and World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21. The theme for this year is ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’ to encourage the public to understand the importance of recognising Dementia and overcoming the stigma related to the condition.”

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, he said it is estimated that in every three seconds, an individual will have dementia. The number of individuals with dementia is expected to reach 152 million by 2050. It is believed that two out of three people in the world have little or no understanding of dementia. This caused dementia to be declared as one of the most significant health crisis of the 21st Century.

Dementia, the minister said can cause the function of the brain to deteriorate resulting in difficulty carrying out daily activities. Dementia normally is associated with senior citizens. However, dementia can happen to anyone regardless of age.

The minister said practising a healthy lifestyle from an early age can reduce the risk of dementia. He recommended healthy eating, regular physical exercise and to quit smoking.

For senior citizens, mental stimulation and social interaction needs to be maintained.

The effect of dementia is not only on the patients but also their family members or guardians as well as the society. Family and the society play a vital role because dementia patients need constant assistance in daily activities. This year’s COVID-19 outbreak increases the challenge as social distancing adds to the difficulty for those experiencing loneliness, depression and social isolation possibly worsening dementia symptoms.

Dementia patients’ family and society need to be more patient and caring during this period.

The minister encouraged the public to talk about dementia and share information about the symptoms of dementia so that signs can be detected early and seek early treatment.

The minister said the outbreak of COVID-19 revealed shortcomings in the provision of daily services and support for dementia patients and the Ministry of Health (MoH) will prepare a system offering easy access to fair and high quality healthcare to the population of Brunei.

The MoH will also ensure that dementia awareness and intervention programme will continue to be implemented in places like Senior Citizen Activity Centres with cooperation from Demensia Brunei, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to the illness.