Dementia – A Growing Health Problem

UniKL hosted Memory Walk 2016 on Sunday, October 9, a charity event for the fourth consecutive year with over 3000 participants. The 6.6km walk was organised in collaboration with the Dementia Society Perak.

The probability of suffering from dementia increases with age. And as life expectancy extends, dementia becomes common. In Malaysia, the UN estimated 123,000 people suffered from dementia in 2015. The number will increase to 261,000 by 2030.

Dementia is a term to describe any condition that causes deterioration of a variety of brain functions such as memory, thinking, recognition, language, planning and personality. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 60 per cent of cases of dementia. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia.

Most kinds of dementia have similar symptoms such as memory loss, difficulties with language, failure to recognise people or objects, change in personality and problems with thinking and planning. Dementia is a progressive condition that cannot be cured. However, medicines are available to slow down its progression and to improve brain functions.

“Presently, there are only four dementia centres in Malaysia (Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bharu) to cater to a population of 30 million Malaysians. They’re all managed by NGOs. Singapore, with a population of only five million, has 14 such centres, fully funded by the government. This is something that the government has to seriously consider,” said Professor Dato’ Dr Mazliham Mohd Su’ud, president cum chief executive officer of Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) during the media conference following Memory Walk 2016.

A Dementia Day Care Centre, under the auspices of the Dementia Society Perak, was started in 2011. The private, non-profit foundation is located at 15 Jalan Foo ChoongNyit, 30450 Ipoh, Perak. The centre offers respite for caregivers and stimulating activities for sufferers. Open from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, it provides transport services to those who need transport to attend the daycare. Clients are occasionally taken out for short trips to places of interest. The charge is RM30 per day (discounted rates available). Currently, its capacity is 25 patients with a staff ratio of 5:1.

“Sadly, not many people are aware of the disease. When their parents’ behaviour are a bit off, they’ll lock them in the house and leave them there, thinking their parents have gone nuts. They’re not crazy, they’re just regressing,” Associate Professor Dr Mah Kin Kheong, the vice chairman of Dementia Society Perak explained.

Among those present were Hj Hisshamuddin Omar, head of campus, Associate Professor Dr Syed Rahim Syed Hamid, dean of the faculty of medicine and Professor Dr Esther Ebenezer, chairperson of Dementia Society Perak.

“It’s fun joining this healthy programme and raising funds at the same time,” said a 25-year-old Ipohite to Ipoh Echo. She had participated in two previous walks.

For further information, contact the Dementia Society Perak at 05 241 1691 or visit their website at

Mei Kuan

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