“Dementia is not a terminal illness. There is no cure but we can do many things to slow it down,” declared Professor Kua Ee Heok, Professor and Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, National University of Singapore (NUS), an expert in geriatric psychiatry, at the recent NUS Greater Good Series talk entitled “Can we put the brakes on dementia?”.
The media all too frequently portrays the elderly as being frail, ill and bedridden. However, the reality is that most elderly people are healthy and live full lives. In fact, only five percent of people over 65 have dementia. However, this percentage of the population, which numbers around 30,000, places a great strain on the family caregivers and the health service.
Prof Kua explained that dementia is a syndrome, meaning it is made up of a number of symptoms. The most common are memory impairment such as the loss of short-term memory; intellectual decline such as forgetting familiar words; and personality deterioration at which point individuals can no longer care for themselves.
What can we do to stave off dementia? The first piece of advice Prof Kua gave was that, well before there is any chance of dementia taking hold, it is imperative to appoint someone as your Lasting Power of Attorney so they can make decisions regarding your care. The three other areas to focus on are controlling blood pressure, reducing obesity and controlling blood sugar. It is important to eat well: fish like salmon and mackerel are recommended as they include Omega 3, as are spices, tea and berries for their antioxidants. Mental stimulation is also key, which is why elderly folk should be encouraged to read, listen to music and play mind games such as mahjong and chess.
Prof Kua shared some findings from the Jurong Ageing Study, which started approximately five years ago. The Study, which has been made possible thanks to private gifts, volunteers and non-governmental organisations, offers old folks in Jurong a full physical and psychological assessment by nurses, talks from a family physician on how to manage diabetes and hypertension, as well as regular sessions of Tai Chi, mindfulness training, music and art. The Study has shown that, within six months, the rate of anxiety and depression among participants drops dramatically.
In summary, Prof Kua explained that we are able to effect change through our diet, stimulating our brain and being involved in social activities. It is also important, as we grow old, to be useful to others. Successful ageing is more than just living longer and staying healthy; it is also about giving back to the community.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact Chow Wei Ling on firstname.lastname@example.org