SINGAPORE: Those suffering from dementia feel rejected, lonely, ashamed and less competent, Singapore’s first national survey on dementia revealed on Monday (Apr 29).
The survey by Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) polled more than 5,600 people, including those with dementia as well as their caregivers and the general public.
The results revealed that 72 per cent of people with dementia feel rejection and loneliness while half of them feel that they cannot be open with others regarding their condition.
More than 56 per cent of them say that people treat them as less competent, the study added.
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For those who care for someone suffering from the disease, nearly 30 per cent said they feel embarrassed while tending to their loved ones in public, while more than one in 10 feel that others around them “seem awkward”.
Chief Executive Officer of Alzheimer’s Disease Association Jason Foo said that stigma affects more than just the quality of life for persons with dementia and their families.
“It really emphasises that we should use the right type of language; show more empathy for persons with dementia and their caregivers and aim to integrate persons with dementia into the society by building dementia-friendly communities to support them,” he said.
In measuring stigma levels towards Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias, findings show that those who hold no connection to dementia have the highest stigmatic attitude.
This is followed closely by the persons with dementia themselves, with about half of them feeling ashamed of their condition, citing stigma as the main reason.
MORE AWARENESS NEEDED
The study also reinforced the need for more dementia education and awareness, with more than 57 per cent of the general public rating themselves as low in dementia knowledge.
The respondents also reported feeling uncomfortable interacting with persons with dementia, with almost 44 per cent feeling frustrated with not knowing how to help.
Despite the low awareness, nearly eight in 10 of all respondents want to do more to improve the lives of persons with dementia.
About seven in 10 of the respondents to the survey also agreed that those suffering from dementia should live “with family in their home” and agree that Singapore needs to provide more dementia-friendly amenities.
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“We need to strive towards changing the mindset of society and break stereotypes,” said Mr Foo.
"All of us should not focus on their (persons with dementia) deficits, but on what they can still do with their remaining abilities. It’s important to recognise that they can still lead purposeful and meaningful lives."
According to the Institute of Mental Health, one in 10 people aged above 60 in Singapore has dementia, with the condition affecting half of those above 85.
This translates to an estimated 82,000 cases locally in 2018, with the number is expected to go beyond 100,000 by 2030.
“ADA believes that proactive steps should be taken to educate people to be aware of dementia, be mindful of any preconceived thoughts of dementia as a debilitating condition," said Mr Foo.
"In building inclusive dementia friendly communities – anyone and any organisation can be part of this movement."
To combat this stigma, ADA will be launching a nationwide dementia awareness campaign in June, starting with a set of Dementia-Language guidelines followed by roadshows, events, talks and videos.
The campaign will culminate in a public event on Sep 21 on World Alzheimer’s Day in commemoration of World Alzheimer’s Month.