The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday warned of the rising prevalence of dementia among senior citizens and called for the authorities to take measures to slow its spread and improve healthcare services for sufferers.
Citing an assessment by the Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association, the foundation said that among Taiwan’s population of 23.3 million, about 20,000 people under the age of 65 suffer from dementia.
The number of people aged above 65 affected with the syndrome, which is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities, is about 170,000, the foundation said in a press release warning of a possible depletion of social resources in the future if the prevalence is not effectively slowed.
The organization also quoted a research study by the Alzheimer’s Disease Association as saying that the prevalence among the 65-to-69 age group stands at 1.2 percent, while that of the 70-to-74 age group is 2.2 percent, the 75-to-79 group is at 4.3 percent, the 80-to-84 group is at 8.4 percent, the 85-to-89 group is at 16.3 percent and the about 90 group is at 30.9 percent.
The figures show that the dementia prevalence rate roughly doubles from one age group to the next, the foundation said.
The foundation also said that 75 percent of the 190,000 dementia patients around the nation were not diagnosed early and therefore missed the optimum time for treatment that would have slowed the onset of the disease.
Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association secretary-general Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉) said that early diagnosis and treatment of dementia would substantially lessen the number of dementia patients in the nation.
“Early discovery of the syndrome helps postpone elderly people’s degeneration,” Tang said.
However, she said the Bureau of Health Promotion at the Department of Health has failed to propose and carry out measures for the prevention and control of dementia.
Tang said that dementia sufferers need not just healthcare and hygiene maintenance, but also caregivers who can lead them in physical and mental exercises, but the nation’s long-term care service system lacks such services.
Predicting that dementia will become the major disease after cancer that will consume large amounts of social resources in the future amid the nation’s rapidly aging society, Tang urged the authorities to take the problem seriously.