The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

21st September, World Dementia Day

Tuesday, 21 September 2021, 08:09 Last update: about 25 days ago

Every September, people from around the world come together to raise awareness and challenge the stigma associated with dementia.

September 21st also marks World Alzheimer’s Day and this September marks the 10th anniversary of this vital global awareness raising campaign.

Malta joins the rest of the world in this campaign, more so since one of the most important challenges the Maltese society is facing, like other countries worldwide, is the increasing number of individuals with Dementia. In fact, the number of individuals affected by dementia globally is expected to triple by 2050 (WHO 2020), due to an ever-increasing elderly population.              

Dementia is a general term for conditions of a chronic or progressive nature characterised by gradual loss of memory, impaired communication skills due to the condition affecting thinking, reasoning, language, comprehension, calculation and judgement, leading in turn to difficulties in performing daily-life activities. However, its symptoms vary widely from person to person. Though dementia mostly affects, but is not solely limited to older adults, it is not part of normal ageing where a person might develop some age-related memory changes - like misplacing keys, forgetting acquaintances’ names or struggling to find suitable words, only to remember them later.  

Globally, dementia is one of the biggest challenges with nearly 50 million people worldwide living with this condition which affects the lives and routines of the individuals themselves, their family members, friends and carers. Increasing age, strong family history and poor health including uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and smoking all increase the risk for developing dementia. In view of this, as Commissioner for Older Persons the importance of a healthy lifestyle is encouraged, including through regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining social contacts. These measures decrease the chances of developing chronic diseases and may reduce the number of people with dementia.

Of great importance is disease prevention and early diagnosis. In Malta we have free healthcare services, where routine checks or tests could be availed of, besides regular screening programmes.

It is also important to continue creating awareness on the warning signs and symptoms of dementia, as by learning more about the condition and understanding changes in memory and behaviour, society will feel empowered and encouraged to seek out information and advice, thus reaching out for help and support when needed.

Early diagnosis is important for better prognosis with managing the condition, enhancing quality of life and limiting institutionalisation, besides also allowing the individual to plan ahead and make personal choices for the future, since individuals with dementia should have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their care and treatment. With the right support, people with dementia can live a good quality of life doing what matters most to them for as long as possible.

In Malta, the government ensures that people affected by dementia get the quality care they deserve which is free and easily accessible to all. This is done by (1) providing the necessary anti-dementia medication, (2) providing necessary community support and services that are reliable, flexible and have a holistic approach for persons with dementia to be able to remain active and independent for longer, (3) and in later stage dementia, by providing the best level of care and comfort to preserve the dignity of the individual whilst maximising the quality of life.

We need to empathise and be sensitive to the needs of people suffering from dementia and for those caring for them, being formal carers or otherwise. We are committed to continue providing individuals with dementia, their caregivers and family members with all the necessary support whilst never losing sight of who we are caring for.                                   

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