Call for government to implement dementia contingency plan

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Call for government to implement dementia contingency plan

KUCHING: The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) and Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine (MSGM) are calling for urgent action to support the wellbei

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KUCHING: The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) and Malaysian Society of Geriatric Medicine (MSGM) are calling for urgent action to support the wellbeing of persons with dementia, including their caregivers.

They said the recent news about former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi suffering from dementia was a reminder that dementia could affect anyone and had many long-term effects.

“Therefore, we urge stronger steps to prepare the government and the public at large on the potential consequences of being an ageing nation.

“Dementia should no longer be seen as part of ageing but a medical condition needing specialised, high-quality, affordable and above all, human care,” they said in a statement.

MHC and MSGM hence called for the full implementation of the National Dementia Action Plan (NDAP) 2020-2030.

“According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation Malaysia’s (ADFM) estimates, over 200,000 Malaysians may suffer from dementia by 2030, with a 312 per cent increase projected by 2050.

“With only three years left to achieve the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Plan, we urge the government to complete the NDAP, started in 2019 but was hampered by Covid-19.”

With the NDAP, it is expected to enable inclusive policies and initiatives that address the multi-religious societal demands by emphasising respect, dignity, autonomy, and independence of people living with dementia, as well as affordable social care.

“Singapore and Japan have their own national plans and it is time to build ours. The NADP must involve key stakeholders to promote awareness, education, treatment and geriatric care as well as measures to eradicate stigma on dementia.”

Apart from that, they said there was a need to expand the workforce to meet the needs of people with dementia as there were only 40 practising geriatricians in Malaysia (0.19 per 10,000 people), and also fewer than 10 geriatric psychiatrists in Malaysia.

“We urged the government to begin efforts to build capacity and expand the workforce, beginning with a comprehensive mapping of workforce numbers and service provided by both the public and private sectors across the country.

“The suggestion outlined in the 2019 MGSM report should be considered. Importantly, funding should be ring-fenced to develop and provide access to specialist dementia services.”

Moreover, MHC and MSGM also called for strengthening of the legal frameworks to protect the rights of the people with dementia.

“As the National Dementia Plan takes shape, the current legal frameworks in the country need to be strengthened to support and complement the plan.”

They said currently, the Mental Health Act 2001 and Mental Health Regulations 2010 governed the admission and treatment of patients deemed to have mental disorders, which includes dementia.

“However, a 2019 paper highlights the inadequacy of existing laws to address the wider problems associated with dementia, such as decisions around finances and medical decisions.

“To truly align dementia care with the principles of autonomy, dignity and independence, we urged key stakeholders to strengthen our existing legal frameworks to facilitate advances decision-making.”