by Growing Needs | Jul 24, 2023 | Community, Dementia
In 2012, about 28,000 people in Singapore aged 60 years and above has dementia. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be 80,000 people living with dementia. In the recent Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) nationwide study, the prevalence of dementia was found to be 1 in every 10 people aged 60 years and above.
The chances of getting dementia increase with age, but not everyone will develop the condition. According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of dementia increases significantly with age and doubles every 5 years after the age of 60.
Although age is a significant risk factor for dementia, it is not the only factor. Factors like genetics, lifestyle, and environment may also play a role in the development of dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term that describes a loss of thinking ability, memory, logical resoning and other mental disabilities. This decline in mental ability is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. It is not a specific disease but a collection of symptoms caused by different underlying conditions.
The most common symptoms of dementia include:
These symptoms are likely to worsen over time. It can affect one’s ability to carry out everyday activities, such as dressing, bathing, and eating.
Dementia can be caused by a variety of factors which include:
Some risk factors like physical inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and unhealthy diets can be modified. One should take steps to address these modifiable risk factors to help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Treatment for Dementia
Dementia is a normal part of aging. Not all older adults will develop dementia. Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent dementia, one should try to adopt a healthy lifestyle, engaging in mentally stimulating activities, and staying socially connected to help reduce the risk of dementia. Early diagnosis and treatment for any cognitive or memory issues to optimize management will help improve quality of life.
Below are some approaches to treating dementia:
Lifestyle changes: One should make healthy lifestyle choices, such as engaging in physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and staying socially connected as it may help to slow the progression of dementia and improve quality of life.
Non-pharmacological interventions: Non-pharmacological interventions such as cognitive rehabilitation therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, can also be effective in improving cognitive function, and help to reduce behavioral symptoms.
Supportive care: Respite care, home care and hospice care can help to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Behavioral interventions: Behavior management techniques and caregiver training can help to reduce challenging behaviors and improve communication between caregivers and people with dementia.
Medications: There are several medications, including cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine that can be used to treat the symptoms of dementia. These medications can help improve quality of life as it can help to improve cognitive function and reduce behavioral symptoms.
Clinical trials: There are ongoing clinical trials exploring potential new treatments for dementia.
Approach to treating dementia will vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Do consult your healthcare professional with expertise in dementia management to work out a personalized treatment plan for the person with dementia.
Challenges for People with Dementia
Dementia can be very hard for the people with dementia. As the condition progresses, it will lead to a decline in mental abilities, including memory, reasoning, and judgment. It will be challenging for them to perform everyday activities and maintain relationships with loved ones.
Memory loss is one of the hallmark symptoms of dementia. They will struggle to remember important information or events from their past, as well as recent conversations and interactions with others. Dementia patients will then feel frustrated, confused, and isolated.
Other than memory loss, patients with dementia may also experience changes in mood and behavior. They may become more agitated, irritable or anxious. They may also have difficulty expressing their emotions or understanding the emotions of others. They may become withdrawn or apathetic, losing interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy.
People with dementia may also experience physical changes, such as difficulty walking, swallowing, or controlling their bladder or bowels as their condition progresses. This can be embarrassing and distressing for them and they may need the help of a caregiver or medical professional.
Dementia can be a challenging and isolating condition for patients, and it is important that we provide them with support and understanding throughout the course of their illness.
Challenges for Caregivers
Caring for someone with dementia requires a lot of patience, understanding and compassion. It can be emotionally and physically taxing. Dementia can be very hard for caregivers due to several reasons:
Behavioral changes: People with dementia may exhibit behavioral changes that can be difficult for caregivers to manage. They may become agitated, aggressive, or withdrawn, or exhibit other challenging behaviors. These behaviors can be distressing and disruptive and may require caregivers to be constantly vigilant and ready to intervene.
Communication difficulties: People with dementia may have difficulty communicating, which can make it hard for caregivers to understand their needs and wants. They may struggle to find the right words or forget what they were trying to say, which can be frustrating for both the patient and the caregiver.
Physical care needs: As dementia progresses, patients may require assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating. This can be physically demanding for caregivers, particularly if the patient becomes resistant or uncooperative.
Caregiver burnout: Caring for people with dementia can be a full-time job, and caregivers may experience burnout as a result. They may feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, and may have little time or energy for their own needs and interests. That is why it is important for caregivers to take care of their mental well-being
Financial and logistical challenges: Caregiving for people with dementia may also come with financial and logistical challenges. Caregivers may need to take time off work or make other sacrifices to provide care, which can impact their financial stability. They may also need to make difficult decisions about the patient’s care.
Taking care of someone with dementia can be both emotionally and physically challenging for the caregivers. It is important for caregivers to seek support and resources to help them manage the demands of caregiving and maintain their own health and wellbeing.
How can we minimize the risk of dementia?
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent dementia, there are several lifestyle changes and habits that have been associated with a reduced risk of developing the condition.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has been shown to have a protective effect on brain health, reducing the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats has been linked to a lower risk of dementia. Avoid processed foods, sugary snacks, and saturated and trans fats.
Stay mentally active: Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, playing games, or learning a new skill, may help to reduce the risk of dementia.
Stay socially connected: Maintaining social connections with friends and family has been shown to have a protective effect on cognitive function. Try to stay connected with loved ones, join social clubs or groups, or volunteer in the community.
Manage chronic health conditions: Chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol have been linked to a higher risk of dementia. Work with your doctor to manage these conditions and keep them under control.
Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol use: Smoking and heavy alcohol use have been associated with an increased risk of dementia. Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption to reduce the risk.
By adopting these healthy lifestyle habits, you can help to minimize your risk of developing dementia and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Support for both Dementia Patients & Caregivers
There are several resources and support services available in Singapore for people with dementia and their caregivers:
Support for Dementia Patients
Agency for Integrated Care (AIC): AIC provides information and assistance on home-based care services, community-based care services, and long-term residential care for people with dementia. They are contactable at 1800-650-6060.
Dementia Singapore (DS): DS is a non-profit organization that provides support services and information for people with dementia and their caregivers, including dementia support groups, day care centers, and respite care services. Helpline 6377 0700
National Neuroscience Institute (NNI): NNI offers specialized clinical services for people with dementia, including diagnostic assessment, cognitive rehabilitation, and medication management. Tel: 6357 7153
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH): KTPH has a dementia care program that provides specialized care for people with dementia and their caregivers, including cognitive rehabilitation, behavioral management, and support for caregivers. Tel: 6555 8000
Support for Caregivers
Below are some of the resources and support services available for caregivers of people with dementia:
Caregiver Support Centre: The Caregiver Support Centre offers counseling, support groups, and training programs for caregivers of people with dementia. Tel: 9729 8628
Caregiver support groups: Many organizations offer support groups specifically for caregivers of people with dementia. These groups provide a safe and supportive space for caregivers to share their experiences, learn from others, and receive emotional support.
Respite care: Respite care services provide temporary relief for caregivers by offering professional care for their loved ones with dementia. This allows caregivers to take a break, attend to personal needs, and recharge.
Counseling and therapy: Many caregivers experience stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. Counseling and therapy can provide support and coping strategies to help caregivers manage these emotions.
Education and training: Many organizations offer education and training programs for caregivers of people with dementia. These programs can provide practical skills and knowledge to help caregivers better understand the condition, manage challenging behaviors, and improve communication.
Online resources: There are many online resources available for caregivers of people with dementia, including informational websites, online support groups, and virtual training programs.
Financial assistance: Some organizations offer financial assistance to caregivers of people with dementia to help offset the cost of care.
Above are just a few examples of the resources and support available in Singapore for people with dementia and their caregivers. Whether you are a caregiver or a dementia patient, it is important to seek support and information to help manage the condition and maintain your own health and wellbeing.
Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.