PHA calls for "Greater Dementia Awareness"

19 February none

by: Jaime Smith

The Public Hospitals Authority in conjunction with the Geriatrics Unit of the Grand Bahama Health Services (GBHS) held a summit on dementia at the Gerald Bartlett Police Headquarters Tuesday. Dementia is the general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. Kathy Saunders, Nursing Officer for the Eight Mile Rock Clinic and co-chair for the dementia summit informed that statistics indicate a high percentage of people worldwide are experiencing the malady.

" Dementia is becoming more increasing in the Bahamas and in the world as a whole, because people are living longer. The seminar is basically to make people more aware of what dementia is and the way forward in caring for persons with the disease because it is really not easy. We are trying to pave the way forward, especially with the nursing team and then to the community at large." 

Keynote speaker Justina Knowles, Senior Nursing Officer at Geriatrics Hospital, Public Hospitals Authority said "The summit is something that we did to ensure that the health professionals, first and foremost, understand what dementia is all about.

" This includes, doctors, nurses, social workers and all of the different disciplines that would have some significance in the care of the older adult population. We felt that if we target our health professionals then we can go to the community and help them understand dementia. The disorder is significant in our older adult population. The older adult population (65 years and older) is the fastest growing population worldwide. World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes this and the United Nations (UN) recognizes it. They have all set up mandates that we ought to follow. Cases of dementia are rapidly increasing so we thought it fitting to conduct this summit in Grand Bahama. We already had the summit in Nassau, in August of this year. Eventually we will develop a team that will go to all of the Family Islands and spread this crucial information about dementia.

" All is not lost, hence our theme, Dementia? I need to know!" We are here simply to educate and to inform, to make sure that the persons with this diagnosis live a high quality of life. We want the public to know that persons diagnosed with dementia are still human beings and we want them to maintain a quality of life based on their ability to perform in certain areas. We want them to retain their potential as opposed to rapidly decreasing their abilities. We understand the end result is death but we want them to live a comfortable and happy life until then. It is only us (health care professionals) that can do that for them,"  sid Knowles.

The four types of dementia discussed at the summit were, Alzheimers (most common form of dementia), lewy body disease, vascular dementia (second most common type) and fronto-temporal degeneration. Two- thirds of the number of older adults diagnosed with dementia are women. In The Bahamas the current population of older persons is 22,598. This number is expected to increase and dementia is among the leading ailments in this growing population of the country.