‘We can do better to help dementia sufferers’

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Demensia Brunei (dB), in collaboration with the Community Development Department (JAPEM) of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and Ministry of Health (MoH), held a virtual dialogue session on dementia in conjunction with the World Alzheimer’s Month yesterday.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin officiated as the guest of honour the virtual dialogue session and World Alzheimer’s Month.

In his speech, the minister said, “Dementia is often misunderstood, and it needs to be enhanced in terms of knowledge and understanding at every level of society in this country.

“Even though two thirds of the people across the world understand the meaning of dementia, stigma or misconception still pervades in the society.

“Now is the time to be aware of the effects of dementia and to support those with the disease nationally, regionally and globally.

“The involvement and commitment of the youth as caregivers, carers and volunteers is crucial towards achieving the vision of having healthy and active senior citizens who can contribute to the development of the country.”

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin at the virtual dialogue. PHOTO: SYAZWANI HJ ROSLI

“We have an obligation to our senior citizens. We can do more and better, and to achieve this desire, we must change our mindset about dementia. The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world should not be seen as an obstacle to the progress of senior citizens, but rather as a challenge that needs to be faced together.

“We should equip ourselves with knowledge that in turn will become our daily practice. This way, we can take better care of ourselves and the elderly we love. At the same time, every level of society should prioritise self-awareness with full knowledge and understanding of the disease,” he said.

World Alzheimer’s Month is an international campaign organised by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) every September 21. This year marks the ninth celebration, and is themed ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia.’

The minister explained that the dialogue is also an effort to fighting the stigma surrounding dementia and misunderstanding towards those suffering from the disease.

Although dementia seems to be a common disease among the elderly, the fact is that this condition is not a normal ageing process, he said.

“Every three seconds, someone in the world suffers from dementia. To date, almost 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia. The number is predicted to up three-folds, making an increase of 152 million people with dementia by 2050. Brunei is no exception. According to the latest statistics from the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics, the population aged 65 and above is 22,200 people as of 2019”.

The virtual dialogue session discussed medical, social issues and community responsibilities.

The speakers of the session included Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad; ADI Director for Asia Pacific Region and founder of Alzheimer’s Indonesia DY Suharya; former Secretary of Alzheimer’s Diseases Foundation Malaysia (ADFM) and dB Advisor Datin Jacqueline Wong, Caretaker of people with dementia Syu PG; Senior Neurology Consultant, Director of the Neuroscience, Stroke and Rehabilitation Centre Dr Pengiran Hajah Nur’ashikin binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Tengah; Geriatrics Medical Consultant at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital and dB President Dr Teo Shyh Poh.

Datin Jacqueline Wong encouraged the involvement of young volunteers in dB’s dementia-friendly initiatives and dementia care skills training workshops.

“This presents the opportunity to educate our young people of the benefits of leading healthy lifestyles, the importance of mental and physical wellbeing towards ageing active and staying well for later in life,” she said.

She shared that Brunei has the highest prevalence of obesity among youth aged five and 19 (at 14.1 per cent).

“One thing is clear from these health challenges – more Bruneians will be living longer in ill health. There may be some spending the last 25 years of their lives having to cope with diabetes and hypertension, and its complications. Some of these illnesses – if not all – could lead to dementia,” she continued.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing the risk of dementia, but we can all work together in public education and risk reduction efforts towards lowering numbers as ‘a-whole-nation’ approach – Public-Private-Partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the community,” she said.

The screening of the virtual dialogue was held live at the Senior Citizens Activity Centre (PKWE) both at the Brunei-Muara and Tutong branches, the Bestari Community Centre, and the Language and Literature Bureau in the Belait District.

Various activities have also been lined up this month to raise public awareness on dementia, including roadshows at Bandarku Ceria, RIPAS Hospital and PKWE.