Spotlight on dementia situation

An ongoing three-year nationwide study could lead to better health-care services and resources not just for seniors with dementia and depression, but for their caregivers as well.

Led by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the $4.4-million Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study is looking into the prevalence of dementia and depression among the elderly here, the economic costs of the illnesses and the burden shouldered by care- givers.

It is being carried out through a collaboration with international and local research investigators.

During a press conference held at IMH yesterday, Associate Professor Chong Siow Ann said that there is concern over the "unwell ageing population", especially for those afflicted with dementia and depression.

Prof Chong, who is vice-chairman of IMH's medical board of research, said that the study will provide information to guide policymakers in the planning of services and allocation of resources.

Results of the study - which will involve 2,500 Singapore residents aged 60 and above, as well as 2,800 of their family members and friends - are expected to be released in 2014.

Face-to-face interviews will be carried out with participants who will be randomly selected, and the three major ethnic groups here will be equally represented. Survey firm Ascentiq will conduct the survey, and a notification letter from the Ministry of Health will be sent to residents involved.

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder, and patients may suffer from memory loss and have difficulty expressing themselves.

Caregivers of such patients often face growing physical, financial and emotional strain as the disease worsens in patients, said Prof Chong.

To better understand the needs of caregivers, focus-group sessions were conducted between September last year and April this year, with 63 caregivers of dementia patients involved. The results showed that caregivers felt there was a lack of services and public information on the illness.

Based on feedback from the focus groups, Assistant Professor Mythily Subramaniam, deputy director of IMH's research division, said: "The No. 1 reason (dementia sufferers) delayed seeking help is that they did not know it was dementia.

"Many of them confuse (dementia) with the normal ageing process."


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