ST Forum: Treat dementia as an aspect of living, not a disease

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Forum: Treat dementia as an aspect of living, not a disease

NOV 29, 2022

Kudos to social service agency Awwa and philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation for their initiative which gives seniors with dementia a chance to volunteer for meaningful activities (Seniors with dementia volunteer at schools, temple, Nov 26).

As our society continues to prosper and our human resources continue to age, it is imperative that we maintain our focus on inclusivity and leave no one behind. 

Dementia does not differentiate when it comes to race, religion or age. Those with early-stage dementia are getting younger. Besides providing those with dementia with the infrastructure and resources to continue to live a meaningful life, there are some other related things that can be done.

Companies must resist the temptation to let go of employees who show early signs of dementia, giving the reason of them being unable, or soon being unable, to do the job they are paid to do.

Instead of taking this easy way out, companies should provide the employee with psychological and practical support and explore the possibility of assigning him to a different job. They can work with unions and professional coaches who can guide the process.

It is during such times that persons with dementia can maintain their dignity and self-confidence, or go down the slippery slope of depression. Bosses can and must help. 

Society must also play a part. Our people must adopt a mindset that having dementia is not a disease; it is an aspect of living. We can take steps to mitigate the risks of having dementia, such as living an active lifestyle, ensuring that our minds continue to stay engaged, and having a social circle within which we can have interesting conversations.

We must accept those with dementia, not pity them or treat them as outcasts. The worst thing that family members and caregivers can do is to take over their lives and make every decision for them, when they can still make decisions for themselves. 

Growing old, retiring from full-time work and having dementia must not be the beginning of the end. The worst thing that can happen is to cease to be useful to others, be it family or the community. This would, sadly, be the beginning of the end.

Paul Heng

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