National survey shares that 72 percent of persons with dementia feel rejection and loneliness, while 50 percent feel they cannot be open with others regarding their condition.
Nearly three in four persons with dementia feel rejection and loneliness, and more than one in two feel they are treated by others as less competent, according to the first national survey on the condition in Singapore.
The survey done by the Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) also found that nearly 30 percent of caregivers feel embarrassed while caring for their loved ones with dementia in public and more than one in 10 feels that others around them seem awkward. The survey polled 5,679 respondents in January, including dementia patients, caregivers and the general public.
Jason Foo, CEO of ADA, said: “Stigma affects beyond the quality of life for individuals with dementia and their family members. It really emphasises that we should use the right type of language, show more empathy for persons with dementia and their caregivers, and help them integrate into the society by supporting them with dementia-friendly communities.”
The findings found that those who have no connection to dementia have the highest stigmatic attitude towards Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. Among the general public, males were found to be significantly more stigmatic than females, while those aged 70 and above are more stigmatic, followed by those aged 21 to 39, and those aged 40 to 69.
While almost 60 percent of the general public and persons with dementia said “yes” to incompetency in persons with dementia, 90 percent of caregivers disagreed that loved ones with dementia are incompetent.
Bringing more awareness to dementia
The survey found that 57 percent of the general public rate themselves as having low knowledge in dementia and feel uncomfortable communicating with individuals with dementia. Almost 44 percent of individuals feel frustrated with not knowing how to render assistance to people with dementia.
However, nearly eight in 10 of all respondents want to do more to improve the lives of individuals with dementia. In fact, 73 percent think that individuals with dementia can still enjoy life, and that the society can do more to improve their quality of life.
“We need to work towards changing the society's mindset and breaking stereotypes. All of us should not focus on the deficits of people with dementia, but on what they can still accomplish with their remaining abilities. It’s important to recognise that they can still lead purposeful and meaningful lives,” added Foo.
Senior lecturer of statistics at the SMU’s School of Economics, Rosie Ching said that she approached ADA to work together in exploring Singapore’s dementia landscape. “I’ve heard students sharing stories of their grandparents and relatives with dementia. My own beloved great-grandmother died from dementia when I was an undergraduate, and I'll never forget her suffering during the 90s.”
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 is equivalent to an estimated 82,000 cases locally in 2018. The number is expected to go beyond 100,000 by 2030.
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