Accra, Oct 8, GNA – Mr Venance Dey, Co-Founder of Alzheimer Ghana (AG), a non-governmental organization, on Wednesday said there were over 17,000 people with dementia in Ghana and expressed concern that the number might double in 20 years.
“It is estimated that, one in nine persons who are over the age of 65 years and one in four over 80 years develop this progressive illness which can last for many years”, Mr Dey stated in Accra during the celebration of the 2014 World Alzheimer Day.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, memory loss. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia.
Dementia is not a specific disease. It's an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.
Mr Dey said according to World Alzheimer Report, 44 million people worldwide are suffering from the disease based on a country’s population studies.
Mr Dey who was speaking at the commemoration of World Alzheimer Day in Ghana by the Alzheimer and Related Disorders Association of Ghana (ARDAG) said the day served as platform to create awareness as well as educate people to know about the disease, how and why patients could be managed even though the disease cannot be cured.
“The day also promotes the donation into the fund of Alzheimer’s research which may someday provide a breakthrough for the treatment and new findings,” Mr Dey said.
He said awareness about the degenerative and irreversible disorder was very important to be understood in caring for patient affected by Alzheimer.
Mr Dey said the first people who ought to be educated on the symptom and management of the disease were those who had relatives suffering from it.
“In most of the cases during the early stages of Alzheimer’s symptoms are often mistaken for age related forgetfulness and the disease is diagnosed only after it advances to a higher stage making it equally difficult for the patients and for the caregivers,” he said.
He said awareness about the disease was almost non-existent in Ghanaian communities hence the formation of the AG to raise awareness about dementia in local communities that would encourage government to build systems for all those affected to have access to quality care and support they needed.
He said the ARDAG had targeted the general public for the awareness campaign, as one of their priorities was to influence government policy therefore focusing on policy makers to provide information, support services, promotion of early diagnosis and interventions for people with dementia and their families in the country.
Mr Dey said there was inadequate dementia research in Ghana at present with no differentiation between progressive neurological diseases from normal cognitive decline in old age.
Mrs Esther Dey, Executive Director of AG, said people who smoke had 45 per cent high risk of developing dementia than non-smokers.
She added that it was also estimated that 14 per cent of Alzheimer diseases cases worldwide were potentially attributed to smoking.
She said research had shown that individuals who drink moderate amounts of red wine which contains anti-oxidants may have health benefits such as protection from dementia and cardiovascular protection,
“However, individuals who drink excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can develop dementia known as Korsakoff’s syndrome”, she said.
Mrs Dey said the World Health Organization has also warned that exposure to second-hand smoke (passive smoking) might also increase the risk of dementia.
Explaining the causes of dementia, which is the most common form of dementia accounting for approximately 55 per cent of all cases, she said it was not known after it was first described in 1906 by a German neurologist called Alois Alzheimer’s hence the name Alzheimer’s disease.
“Vascular dementia is the second most common types of dementia and it accounts for about 20 per cent of all cases”, Mrs Dey said.
She mentioned Parkinson’s disease, Down syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Vitamin deficiency and severe hypothyroidism as some of the conditions that could lead to the development of dementia.
Mrs Dey noted that forgetfulness, loss of interest in daily activities, loss of memory, Disorientation, aggressiveness, frequently losing things as well as depression were some of the symptoms of dementia.
On the measures people could take in reducing the risk of dementia, she advised people to look after their heart very well, be physically active, follow a healthy diet course, challenge their brain and finally enjoy social activities.
She however called on all Ghanaians to collaboratively help control dementia saying “Now is the time to fight to reduce this silent epidemic called dementia in Ghana collaboratively”.
Dr Dennis Bortey, Vice President of AG, said the number of people with dementia worldwide in 2010 was estimated at 35.6 million and is projected to nearly double every 20 years to 65.7 million in 2030 and 11.54 million in 2050 respectively.
He said the total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide was nearly 7.7 million, implying one new case every four seconds.
“The accelerating rates of dementia are cause for immediate action, especially in low-and middle in countries where resources are few,” he said.
He therefore called for integrated and collaborative response for persons with dementia, as their capacity for independence changed over time.
“As most people with dementia will continue living in their community, it is essential that health and community care service providers have the capacity to respond to the needs of these people,” he said.
He also called for the incorporation of interdisciplinary team that would form part of the professional education which would be given to caregivers as well as patients and it should be supported by the development of appropriate practice guidelines.