In Singapore, one in 10 people aged 60 and above may have dementia.
WHEN Yvette Lim (not her real name) found herself suffering from short-term memory lapses, a medical check confirmed that she had Alzheimer's.
At 61, she is considered young to have this disease - people with dementia whose symptoms start before they are 65 are often classified as having young-onset dementia.
Data from support group Alzheimer's Disease International show that in 2018, dementia affected 50 million people worldwide. This number is expected to rise to 82 million by 2030 and 152 million by 2050.
In Singapore alone, according to the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study led by the Institute of Mental Health in 2015, one in 10 people aged 60 and above may have dementia. This translates to almost 82,000 people in 2018. The number is expected to exceed 100,000 in a few years' time.
Because of the upward trend, Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) has stepped in. Board member Paul Heng said: "We are reaching out to organisations such as SMRT to train their frontline personnel on how to recognise dementia-related behaviours. We hope to extend this to more organisations and the public alike."
He added that the organisation is also promoting awareness of this disease through various avenues such as social media platforms and concerts to create public awareness as well as promote ADA's campaign #DespiteDementia to fight stigma.
One popular misconception about the disease, Mr Heng said, is that it only afflicts the elderly."We know of someone who is in her late-40s, and is in the early stages of dementia," he added.
Ng Li-ling, a doctor specialising in psychiatry and also the ADA board vice-president, said that Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia - the other one being vascular dementia, which is caused by stroke - and there is evidence that physical exercise, cognitive activities and social activities can slow down the deterioration.
Dr Ng said: "It is essential to get a medical assessment and accurate diagnosis as there are other causes of confusion and memory loss - such as infection, and vitamin deficiencies. After a diagnosis is made, there are treatments available and also other psychosocial interventions that can slow down the deterioration."
The disease not only affects the patient, but the caregiver as well. Mr Heng said: "Caregivers must take good care of themselves, and reach out to fellow caregivers or ADA for support - they must acknowledge and accept the changes happening to their loved ones, and know that they are not alone as someone is diagnosed with the disease every three seconds."
He added that there are some contrasts between normal ageing and early dementia, and some of the differences are:
Short-term memory loss • Normal ageing: You occasionally forget what your friends or colleagues tell you.
• Possible dementia: You keep asking your friends or colleagues for the same information over and over again.
Compromised eyesight • Normal ageing: Poorer eyesight due to physical changes in the eyes, such as cataracts.
• Possible dementia: Problems interpreting visual information, such as difficulty judging the distance on the stairs, or misinterpreting patterns or reflections.
• Normal ageing: You misplace your phone or wallet from time to time but you can retrace your steps and find it.
• Possible dementia: Your misplaced items are found in unusual places such as keys in the fridge.