Thanks to a fellow social worker, I have this link to share to show how South Korea is addressing Dementia. Like many other countries in the world, 40-50% of the population will be 65+ and with each year of being in the ‘older adult’ demographic, the chance of developing Dementia rises. It is definitely worth reading and I think the best way for any country to implement a plan is to look to other countries to see what is being considered and addressed. In 2011, South Korea passed a dementia management law, establishing centers and mandating that citizens older than 65 be checked for dementia symptoms. To me, this is both a progressive law and a progressive country in that government sees the need for proactive healthcare services. The earlier any disease or illness is caught, the sooner treatment and options can be discussed and implemented.
“By some estimates, nearly 40 percent of Koreans will be 65 years old or older by mid-century. In a sense, the country is suffering from its rapid development, which has been accompanied by soaring life expectancy and plummeting birth rates.”
Next is the UK. This is a country going through major overhaul of both their health system as well as their social services system. One that is being addressed is Dementia education. The Pioneer School in the UK-education on Dementia has a goal of public awareness. Those that do receive a diagnosis can experience social exclusion mostly due to stigma, ignorance and lack of awareness. There are 2 myths that need to be addressed:
- Dementia is a normal part of aging
- Nothing can be done about it
While on some level #2 is correct, it is not the whole truth. Medications are an option should a patient and/or family choose this i.e. Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne along with Namenda to slow down symptoms. Currently, there is no cure. Groups that focus on socialization, discussion of symptoms and support along with physical exercise and brain boosting activities are available. As the disease progresses, these groups offer needed respite to family caregivers. Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging. Age related memory loss is, but when the memory loss interferes with daily activities, an individual does not recognize family members, is unable to complete ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) for themself, it has gone beyond ‘normal’ aging. Also, other health issues need to be ruled out as some symptoms mimic symptoms of Dementia; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, infections, mineral or vitamin deficiencies, dehydration and side effects of medications.
“Two thirds of people with dementia in the UK never receive a specialist diagnosis. That is over half a million tax payers, together with their carers, unable to access the help they need.”
The objective to educate the younger generations is awareness and reducing stigmatization of older family members. The U.S. and Canada can learn much from other countries and can improve their own policies re: healthcare, screening of symptoms, raising awareness of the disease and reducing stigmatization. As I have said in another article, treating Dementia like a disability can help in this process as a disability appears to be less stigmatizing than a disease.
*Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada*