Alzheimer's Month flyer
Dementia is a ticking time bomb’
Bermuda needs a plan to deal with its dementia time bomb, an expert said yesterday.
Jo-Ann Cousins-Simpson said a national plan would help improve access to diagnosis, treatment and care, and promote a better quality of life for those living with the condition.
Dr Cousins-Simpson explained: “An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease not only benefits an individual and their family, but earlier detection of dementia will also help lower the financial impact of dementia on the healthcare system.
She added: “Developing a national dementia plan will help Bermuda to deal with the growing impact of dementia.
“Implementing a plan helps to increase national awareness and education about dementia and can improve access to diagnosis, treatment and care, promoting a better quality of life for people living with dementia.”
Dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that affect mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
Dr Cousins-Simpson, who cofounded Bermuda Alzheimer’s and Memory Services with Maxine Simmons, was speaking about the benefits of early detection of Alzheimer’s disease as the island marks Dementia Awareness Week.
She said: “World Alzheimer’s Month is about remembering those affected by dementia, including many who may be worried about developing dementia themselves.”
Dr Cousins-Simpson added that the World Health Organisation estimated last year that 46 million people worldwide suffered from dementia.
And she warned: “By the year 2050, that number is expected to rise to more than 131 million, making Alzheimer’s disease one of the most significant health and social crises of the 21st century.”
She added that a new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds and the condition is estimated to cost $818 billion a year worldwide.
Dr Cousins-Simpson said: “To put this into perspective, what this means is, if dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy.
”If it were a company, it would be the world’s largest by annual revenue, exceeding Apple at US $742 billion and Google at US $368 billion.”
Dr Cousins-Simpson added the theme of the sixth annual World Alzheimer’s Month was “Remember Me” to highlight the importance of early detection and diagnosis of dementia.
She said: “One of the tragic realities about the disease is that most people who are living with it have not received a formal diagnosis.
“According to Alzheimer’s International, the global voice on dementia, high-income countries such as Bermuda recognise and document only 20 to 50 per cent of all dementia cases in primary care. This would suggest that at least 2,000 people in Bermuda have not received a diagnosis, and therefore do not have access to treatment, care and organised support that getting a formal diagnosis can provide.”
Dr Cousins-Simpson added that, because dementia is often seen as incurable, many people, including doctors, do not see the benefits of an early diagnosis.
She said that even though research has shown Alzheimer’s is preventable and also reversible, especially in the early stages, this information is not spreading fast enough and many are still unaware.
Dr Cousins-Simpson said: “As a result of this lack of knowledge among the masses, doing an early memory test or cognitive assessment at the first signs of the disease, or even before, is not seen as sensible or even necessary.”
She added even before it was shown that Alzheimer’s can be prevented and even reversed, an early diagnosis helped rule out treatable causes of dementia such as vitamin B12 deficiency and thyroid problems.
She said catching it early offered better chances of slowing and reversing the disease.
It also allowed time to plan for medical and financial decisions, as well as an opportunity to record memories.
She added that just knowing a name for the symptoms can be a relief and can help people with the condition and their family to prepare.
Dr Cousins-Simpson said an early diagnosis can also help the caregiver learn how to support someone with dementia and it provides time to look at safety concerns like driving and medication errors.
She added that it also gives people the chance to join support groups to share experiences and learn how others cope with Alzheimer’s.
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