4,500 persons with dementia in Malta
There are currently over 4,500 persons with dementia in Malta. A figure that will rise progressively over the next 10 years to 6,000.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly and Community Care Mario Galea said that the likelihood of developing dementia increases with advancing age. In fact, it affects about 1 in 5 persons at the age of 80 years and 1 in 3 at the age of 90 years.
Mario Galea was speaking during the opening of the International Conference entitled 'Alzheimer's Disease: Alternatives to Hospitalisation and Assistance to Caregivers' organised by Caritas Malta in collaboration with the International Federation of Associations of the Elderly (FIAPA).
Malta has been amongst a few countries that have embarked on setting up a dementia strategy aimed at enhancing the quality of life of individuals with dementia, their carers and relatives. In May 2009, the Malta Dementia Strategy Group was set up. The Dementia Strategy will soon be officially launched based on skills, knowledge and hard work involving both professionals and the community.
Worldwide a new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds. Dementia encompasses a number of clinical conditions that include Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia amongst many other causes.
Parliamentary Secretary Mario Galea said that the societal costs of dementia are enormous. A recent study published by the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Sweden estimated that, in 2009, the global cost of dementia was US$608 billion. This sum is equivalent to 1% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. In practical terms this means that if dementia was a country, it would have been the 18th largest economy in the world and would be invited to the G20 meetings.
Mr Galea mentioned the sterling work being done by the Activity Centre at St Vincent de Paul Residence to help clients and their respective families. Besides the mentioned centre, Malta also has 19 Community Day Centres for the elderly disseminated across the island. Amongst these are a number of elderly people with dementia who find respite and support within these cay centres.
He argued that policy for these clients should be plotted with them rather than doing it for them. Clients still have a voice, a contribution to make and have a right to determine their own future.
He said that it is imperative to continue to support dementia clients to live at home. It is the government’s policy to continue to support dementia clients within the community. In Malta this is done through a number of community services which include Home Help, Community Nursing, Elderly Community Outreach team, Meals on wheels, Handy Man Services and many others. At present, the government is giving 7,500 hours of Home help weekly and has increased the number of beds in elderly homes by about 900. Besides new residences are being built dementia-friendly.