Shedding light on elder care

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam’s success in handling the COVID-19 outbreak was highlighted at a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) webinar on ‘COVID-19 and Ageing Society’s Impact on Older Adults’ featuring international panellists.

During the virtual dialogue, Demensia Brunei (dB) Honorary Adviser Datin Jacqueline Wong shared with the panel of world experts that the secret to Brunei’s ability to contain the coronavirus is its whole-of-nation approach.

“It is due to early actions and preparedness by the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, along with the community and private sector working together to ensure safety and security” of the people that led to the successful containment of the outbreak, she said.

Meanwhile, on dementia, Datin Wong said the WEF “will look into my recommendations of having governments incorporating advanced care planning and dementia care support” into the healthcare system.

Five topics were discussed at the virtual dialogue: ‘Long-Term Care Facilities’, ‘Home and Community-Based Care’, ‘Ageism in the Time of Coronavirus’, ‘Impact on Older Adults in Low-and-Middle Income Countries, and ‘Converging Pandemics: Loneliness and Isolation’.

International experts at the World Economic Forum’s webinar on ‘COVID-19 and Ageing Society’s Impact on Older Adults’. PHOTO: DEMENSIA BRUNEI

Datin Wong also participated in a virtual meeting on ‘Learning from COVID-19 to Accelerate Action for More Inclusive Decade of United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Delivery’.

“The take-away from this discussion was positive,” she said, adding that the UN Sustainable Development groups aims to advance the discussion on the rights of older people, the rights of people with dementia and the rights of people with disabilities as well as engage global funding, in terms of working groups and initiatives that the UN have on the ground.

“In a nutshell,” she said, “the non-government organisations (NGOs) representing older people, people with dementia, people with disabilities and the vulnerable must speak up and seize the month.”

She admitted that there are still many lessons to be learnt in terms of “accelerating actions to support older people, people with dementia and other disabilities in the post-COVID-19 world”.

Datin Wong believed that administrations, governments and industries must better understand the issues and challenges faced by the vulnerable group.

“The pandemic has offered us an opportunity to come together to rebuild a better world,” she said. “We must rethink how we value each human life and challenge the system that perpetuates inequality. We must ensure the actions to these challenges are included in the response, recovery and mid- and longer-term development plans in each and every country.”

Formed on March 20, 2018, dB is an NGO that focusses on the support, care and rights of people with dementia. Its objectives are to advocate the cause of dementia, raise community awareness, provide information to the public and improve the standards of care for individuals with dementia in the country.

As an Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) member, dB is working closely with ADI and World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure better understanding of the condition regionally and internationally.

Brunei is projected to see a surge in dementia cases following the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases. Stroke, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and hypertension increase the risk of dementia, although it can also be triggered by severe head injuries.

Majority of the 2,000 dementia patients in the country suffer from vascular dementia, a decline in cognitive skills caused by a series of mini strokes.

The WHO has recognised the burden of the epidemic by introducing a global action plan on the public health response to dementia for 2017-2025, and among the key areas are research and innovation.