Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia – a general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, with nearly 10 million new cases emerging every year.

Last year, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) conducted one of the largest-ever global studies on attitudes about dementia as part of ongoing efforts to help reduce stigma and increase awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. Nearly 70,000 people across 155 countries, including Qatar, completed the survey.

Some of the most notable findings: almost 80% of the general public are concerned about developing dementia at some point in their life and that one in four people think there is nothing they can do to prevent dementia.

The report also revealed that 35% of caregivers across the world said they have kept a family member’s dementia diagnosis. Over 50% of caregivers globally say their health has suffered as a result of their responsibilities, even whilst expressing positive sentiments about their role. Additionally, almost 62% of healthcare providers worldwide think that dementia is part of normal ageing and about 40% of the general public believe doctors and nurses ignore people with dementia.

Stigmatization and Misinformation

ADI research has shown that globally, two out of every three people believe there is little or no understanding of dementia in their country. The impact of World Alzheimer’s Month is growing, but the stigmatization and misinformation that surrounds dementia remain a global challenge.

Dr Hanadi Al Hamad, Qatar’s National Health Strategy lead for Healthy Ageing and Medical Director of Rumailah Hospital and Qatar Rehabilitation Institute, has been a key driving force in the development of geriatric care services and Alzheimer’s awareness in Qatar.

 While awareness of dementia is increasing around the world, especially in higher-income countries, understanding of Alzheimer’s remains low. This has frequently led to a negative impact on patients living with Alzheimer’s, their families and communities.

Dr Al Hamad said that elderly people with Alzheimer’s often have multiple medical co-morbidities. However, Alzheimer’s symptoms can often make it more difficult to provide even simple care. Often, families delay seeking medical support for a family member with Alzheimer’s, or delay getting a diagnosis, due to the stigma associated with the disease.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, an early diagnosis can help people and their families to be better prepared to cope with the progression of the illness. It can also help them manage other health problems more effectively.

Caregivers, who are often family members, can be overwhelmed with the challenges of caring for a relative in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s dementia. They often feel ashamed or conflicted about asking for help or advice because they feel they are obligated to provide care to their parent or other elderly relative.

A national helpline has been set up to provide confidential information and advice for patients living with Alzheimer’s and their families. The RAHA Alzheimer’s and Memory Services Helpline is available on 4026 2222 from 8 am to 3 pm, Sunday to Thursday.

World Alzheimer’s Month

Throughout September, Hamad Medical Corporation is supporting World Alzheimer’s Month with a series of public awareness events that underpin the global campaign theme of ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s campaign only features an educational webinar for university students and faculty.

Around the world, Alzheimer’s Disease awareness is represented by the colour purple. In solidarity with all people living with this disease, key landmark buildings in Doha and near the Doha Corniche will be lit up in purple this Monday, 21 September.

What You Need to Know about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia