By Cathrine Weerakkody
Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation opened its new service centre on Wednesday providing person-centred day care services for persons with early onset dementia.
The centre, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, would provide day care and respite services, double as a secretariat, library and resource centre and work on memory clinic and training. Located in Ketawalamulla Lane, Colombo 10, the facility is wide, spacious and open and hopes to take on board persons with dementia whether it is in the initial mild stages or moderate stages.
The service centre has been created through donations to provide specific services. Some of services provide day care for persons with mild to moderate dementia, in addition to diagnostic and memory testing service, counselling, and consultation by medical professionals, information and a lending library. There are also activities and awareness programmes available for the very young, young and adult members of the community.
Speaking at the opening of the Centre, President of the Foundation Tami Tamitegama noted that Sri Lanka has been recognized as one of the fastest aging populations from the developing countries. “There is a large senior population in the country. Since age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, the need to create awareness is an increasing necessity,” Tamitegama said.
According to statistics revealed by Tamitegama, the country currently has 150,000 people with dementia which is expected to rise to a staggering 500,000 by 2050. “This means every family will have a dementia patient in the family or in the close network of friends.” He also acknowledged that dementia is no longer a disorder amongst seniors in the world with those in their early 30’s now being detected with the same.
“There is a sense of detachment in the young now but what they must realize is that this can happen to them too, anytime.” Tamitegama also said that currently there are no services and specialists available for seniors in the country. “Therefore it is very important to take this seriously and take it in a positive light rather than a negative one.” There is said to be approximately 18,000 elders associations in Sri Lanka.
Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation, founded in March 2001, is a registered NGO and approved charity taken up by Tamitegama responding to an appeal made by the global foundation Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) in 1999. The foundation is funded by donors of the community.
Dementia, the basis behind the creation of the foundation is a brain syndrome that can be caused by a number of progressive physical disorders. It is the decline of a person’s intellectual functions which is described as the loss of memory, intellect, communication skills, planning and personal organizational ability, social skills and what would be considered loss of normal emotional reactions. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
According to the ADI Report 2011, intervention at early stages of Alzheimer’s disease is known to be more effective and there is a strong economic argument in favour towards earlier diagnosis and timely intervention. Currently a great majority of people with dementia receive a late diagnosis, if at all (the Sri Lankan experience) resulting in a ‘treatment gap’. This would greatly limit access to valuable information, treatment, care, support and compound problems for all involved.
Pic by Upul Abayasekara