Reaching out to Alzheimer’s victims

Participants at this morning’s seminar.

Community groups and the church has been called upon to help Barbados handle its ageing population deal with issues such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The call came from Minister of Social Care, Steven Blackett as he addressed a training seminar on Dementia: Living Together, hosted by the National Committee on Ageing and the Barbados Alzheimer’s Association.

While data on Alzheimer’s was limited in Barbados, Blackett noted that four years ago, 54 per cent of the elderly at the Geriatric Hospital suffered from dementia. He added as well that the National Assistance Board was reportedly in the process of identifying and reporting on those with the condition who were receiving help through the Home Care Programme, with a view to helping formulate training programmes for organisations and communities to cope with the needs.

“Of course, the emotional costs of Alzheimer’s Disease are even more overwhelming. Bare statistics mean little to those family caregivers who may experience emotions ranging from frustration, helplessness and anger to self-pity, guilt and depression as they witness the ravaging effects of this irreversible disease.

“Furthermore, they are faced with their own health issues, financial burdens and other personal dilemmas as a result of the stress and restrictions they are now faced with. As much as they love their family members who are suffering from this disease, family caregivers need support and relief. And so, although the care of the Alzheimer’s sufferers is critically important, the needs of the family caregivers must also urgently be addressed.”

Public sensitisation, the minister said, helped relatives, neighbours and communities better understand the disease, which he was hoping would translate into attempts to reach out to those afflicted.

“Hopefully too, the spirit of volunteerism would be revived in that groups and churches would feel compelled to volunteer their services to spend time with Alzheimer’s sufferers within their communities so as to relieve the immense stress placed on the family caregivers.”

Additionally, the Ministry has promoting the concept of active ageing and in keeping with this drive, the Minister said, “The Ministry has recently sought and obtained the approval of the Cabinet to introduce, within the next three years, tournaments in board games, such as scrabble, draughts and chess, as part of the annual National Senior Games”.

He underscored support for the NAB’s Home Care Programme which caters to more than 1,000 elderly persons in their home, noting however in its current form it could not provide the specialised care needed in some cases.

He reiterated: “[T]he National Assistance Board plans to conduct a comprehensive review of its Home Care Programme. This review will ultimately result in the development of other initiatives and strategies that will further enhance the services currently being offered.” (LB)

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