BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
DEMENTIA is among the leading ailments of the elderly in The Bahamas and it is projected that by 2025 there will be about 70,000 people aged 65 years and older living in the country.
Williamae Hamilton-Stuart, Nursing Services Advisor at the Public Hospitals Authority, said dementia is of great concern because in The Bahamas there are some 22,598 elderly persons who could be at risk of the disease. She stressed the need for more trained, qualified persons in dementia care, as well as the proper regulation of caregivers and facilities that care for the elderly.
“We realise that we have dementia elderly persons who are not getting the care they need and are being cared for by people who are not qualified,” she said.
“What I also found is that there are people coming into the country as caregivers for these older persons, and we want to ensure that these persons are qualified in dementia care.
“We also have too many (elderly) homes springing up and do not know what is happening with the elderly in those homes.”
Although government has something in place to monitor the homes, Mrs Stuart said “no one is enforcing it and someone needs to bring focus to it”.
Mrs Stuart said that they want to raise more awareness about dementia in the Bahamas and at the Dementia 2014 Summit in Grand Bahama, it was revealed that 35.6 million people have dementia worldwide and that 7.7 million new cases are recorded every year. The summit is the second one held in The Bahamas for nurses, healthcare workers, social workers and medical doctors.
“As nursing service advisor, I thought that if the UK is saying their nurses need to be aware of dementia, then we in The Bahamas need to get on the bandwagon and start doing something about it as well,” Mrs Stuart said.
She pointed out there are only a few persons in The Bahamas who are qualified in the area one in Grand Bahama at the Rand Memorial Hospital, and at Sandilands and at Coastline, a dementia care facility in New Providence.
In Grand Bahama, there were 117 dementia admissions to the Rand between 2009 and 2013. Kathy Saunders, nurse manager and co-chairman of the Dementia Summit, revealed that statistics indicate that more women are diagnosed with dementia than men. She reported that of those 117 cases, 70 were women and 47 were men. Persons between 70-79 and 80-89 were among the highest age group admitted for dementia at the Rand during the five-year period.
“Statistical data is important as we chart the way forward for care/management of individuals diagnosed with dementia,” she said.
Hanna Rolle, senior nursing officer in charge of Geriatrics at the Rand, said forgetfulness or poor memory is one of the signs of dementia.
“They forget how to do certain things in their daily living and they get agitated and combative when they deviate from their routine; they run away from home, they can¹t manage their finances and they forget who their relatives are,” she said.
“We want people to understand dementia is not a normal progression of ageing. There are things that individuals should do to stay healthy. They can prevent dementia by watching their diet, exercising, getting adequate sleep and having a good family support.”
Although 65 is average for the onset of dementia, Mrs Rolle said some people can develop dementia at an earlier age. “Vascular dementia can happen if a person has a stroke,” she said.
Mrs Rolle said when persons are diagnosed they are admitted to the Geriatrics Ward in Nassau, but she said a better outcome is achieved if patients can be treated at home or sent to daycare facilities for 12 hours a day and returned home because family involvement is important.
Mrs Stuart said they are trying to put together a national committee to work with the National Council to develop a plan for the elderly that includes stronger legislation which ensures training and education for people who work in the home, the community, for healthcare workers, support staff and the family.