Individuals in their forties are being diagnosed with the early onset symptoms of dementia in Barbados.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, revealed on Wednesday that an estimated 4,000 people suffer from the debilitating disease, and the numbers being diagnosed were on the increase.
Minister Forde was the guest speaker at a training seminar hosted by the Barbados Alzheimer’s Association, under the theme Let’s Talk Dementia: End the Stigma.
She noted that age was the greatest risk factor for developing dementia and the Ministry was paying close attention to the trends, especially as they related to the elderly, given Barbados’ ageing population.
The Minister also noted the important role caretakers played in taking care of elderly persons.
“The care of loved ones who have been afflicted with dementia can be a demanding and stressful task, and without adequate knowledge of the condition, caregivers can feel understandably helpless, hopeless and overwhelmed,” she maintained.
People with dementia, she submitted, were particularly vulnerable to all types of abuse and neglect in their homes and institutions because the ailment rendered them unable to comprehend or explain what was happening to them.
The Minister, however, noted: “We must also give consideration of the hurt and desperation that the caregiver can experience when their ailing relative innocently speaks an untruth against them, such as ‘she didn’t feed me today’ or ‘nobody gave me a bath’.”
Dementia, she said, was a global problem and the issues had to be treated with a measure of seriousness at all levels of society
Minister Forde said that discussions on the ways in which the matter could be addressed must commence as a matter of urgency, and her Ministry would do all in its power, with the assistance of stakeholders and partners, to ensure that senior citizens were cared for.
“We will do so because we acknowledge and can never forget that through their blood, sweat and tears, they would have laboured tirelessly in their formative years to build the firm foundation that we call Barbados. We owe them our love, care and attention.”