More advanced home care, support needed to tackle dementia

I write not only as one who takes care of dementia patients among my other patients, but also as one whose late mother suffered from vascular dementia.

My mother-in-law also has Alzheimer's dementia.

Dr Allyn Hum's commentary is timely and deserves much attention from the health authorities and governing bodies ("Help dementia patients live - and die - with dignity"; Tuesday).

Dementia is a progressive debilitating illness, resulting in sufferers losing their identity and their independence.

It affects individuals from all walks of life. They lose their memory and basic functions, such as the ability to feed themselves, take care of their bowel movements and meet simple daily needs.

This invariably leads to loss of dignity, confusion and depression.

Sufferers find it difficult to express their needs, and may often endure pain and illnesses, without the knowledge of their caregivers.

It is not uncommon for dementia patients to suffer from dehydration because they are unable to ask for fluids, and caregivers may inadvertently leave them for hours with their food and drink not consumed.

Sufferers may also lose their inhibitions and have an extreme change in personality. Some can become very aggressive towards their family members, while others can become paranoid.

Caregivers will suffer tremendous stress and may be unable to cope physically and emotionally.

We need more advanced home care, more health personnel to provide palliative care, and support from the health authorities to meet the oncoming tsunami of dementia that will afflict our increasingly ageing population.

Quek Koh Choon ( Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'More advanced home care, support needed to tackle dementia'. Print Edition | Subscribe