With the world’s population increasingly living further into old age, diseases such as dementia are set to become more prevalent. The appropriate care of people with this distressing condition across the world is patchy; even getting an accurate diagnosis is very difficult never mind receiving appropriate treatment and care. Yet it is a condition that can place great strain on health and social care systems particularly hospitals where most people with the condition will be sent, as there are no other alternatives.
The Foundation’s work on dementia care in Bangladesh is groundbreaking and as well as raising awareness of the condition, the aim is to establish a necessary knowledge base and extend care and treatments across the country. The vision is to establish a number of dementia clinics over the coming years in different areas to help deal with the diagnosis and care of people with this very distressing condition. These clinics would then act as a platform for spreading this approach into other countries.
The World Factbook 2011 (published by the US Central Intelligence Agency) states that health expenditure in Bangladesh stands at 3.4 per cent of GDP (2009). The density of physicians stands at 0.295 per 1,000 head of population and the density of hospital beds is 0.4 per 1,000 head of population. Around 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and there are over 7 million people over the age of 65.
The figures quoted above indicate that structures in Bangladesh are not equipped to deal with the health needs of the general population and particularly the special needs of vulnerable elderly people. There are currently no reliable figures as to how many people in Bangladesh may be suffering from dementia but it is likely to run into hundreds of thousands at least and when multiplied with the number of family members who are very likely caring for someone with the condition then it runs into millions – it remains a hidden problem with very little knowledge of it and its treatment.
The World Alzheimer Report 2011 majors on the importance of early diagnosis of dementia and that this is achieved, it says, through “access to information, advice and support and access to a pathway of effective treatment and care from the time of diagnosis to end of life care.” It is precisely this desire that the Foundation is seeking to address with this proposed dementia project in Bangladesh and views it as an extension of the care that it is already providing to people through to the end of their lives.
SWBF Medical Director, Lt. Col. (Retd) Dr A N M Shahidul Alam in action during a dementia training session involving care assistants at the SWBF Operations office in Dhaka
'Dementia Bangladesh' special unit
Initial activity has centred on providing dementia care training for key staff in the Foundation that was provided by Alzheimer’s Associations in Australia as well as by their experienced tutors in Bangladesh. Following this training and after receiving funding from an international body, earlier this year the Foundation established a special unit to operate a three year project under its auspices. The unit is called ‘Dementia Bangladesh’ and is managed by a Medical Director appointed in early 2013 and a team comprising a Head of Dementia and a lead admin officer plus a number of senior professional healthcare advisors. The Foundation is proud to have held its first International conference in February 2014, click here for further information.
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