Dr Chan Keen Loong speaking during the talk on Understanding Dementia. He suggested steps that caregivers can take to slow down the deterioration of dementia in a patient.Early detection and prevention also highlighted

About 200 participants attended a talk on Understanding Dementia at Agape Village in Toa Payoh on Jan 23. It was organised by Church mental health charity, Clarity Singapore, in partnership with Total Health Rich In Vitality and Energy (THRIVE), a community mental health programme managed by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

As part of its efforts to promote mental well-being, Clarity organised the talk to educate people on how to prevent and detect dementia and how to treat the condition.

Dr Chan Keen Loong, head and senior consultant of the Department of Psychological Medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, was the speaker at the event.

In his talk, Dr Chan explained that the dementia in most patients is often either Alzheimer’s dementia, which is caused by abnormal protein deposits that destroy neurotransmitters; or vascular dementia (stroke), caused by a lack of blood flow that deprives the brain of food and oxygen, resulting in cell death.

While there is currently no cure for dementia, there are ways to slow down the deterioration.

The risk factors of dementia comprise controllable and non-controllable factors. The non-controllable factors include age (65 years and above) and the family history of dementia, while the controllable factors include diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and smoking.

Dr Chan noted that most dementia patients will at some point become very frustrated and prone to agitation as a result of their decreased ability to perform daily tasks like dressing themselves.

He recommended five points on caring for dementia patients:

  • Enhancing communication with dementia patients. An example would be maintaining eye contact, speaking slowly and focusing on one topic at a time, as well as using gestures in order to help them understand better.
  • Caregivers should encourage dementia patients to engage in physical exercise to promote their physical health. This helps to slow the progression of dementia symptoms.
  • Encouraging patient to participate in games and activities to stimulate their minds.
  • Establish a night-time ritual such as discouraging daytime napping, reducing caffeine intake and leaving night lights on to prevent disorientation.
  • Keep a calendar to help them remember important dates.

Participants learnt that providing care for a person with dementia can be physically and emotionally demanding. Various organisations such as the Agency for Integrated Care, Caregivers Alliance, Caregiving Welfare Association and Singapore Silver Pages provide services to aid caregivers in their role.

The website of Clarity Singapore is http://www.clarity-singapore.org/

Dementia in Singapore

Speaking to Catholic News further on this topic, Dr Chan mentioned that the Well-Being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study conducted by the Institute for Mental Health (IMH) in 2013 found that the prevalence of dementia was 10 percent in the elderly population (those aged 60 years and above).

The likelihood of dementia for those aged 75-84 years was 4.3 times higher. For those 85 years and above, it was 18.4 times higher compared to that of elderly aged 60-74 years.

Dementia is on the rise in Singapore according to the Singapore Department of Statistics.

In 2005, the number of dementia patients aged 65 and above was 22,000.

That number is expected to increase to 53,000 by 2020, and eventually 187,000 in 2050.