Understanding Singapore’s Looming Dementia Epidemic: Symptoms, Prevention And Screening
Did you know that Singapore is bracing itself for an upcoming dementia epidemic? According to data from the Agency for Integrated Care, it is estimated that around 86,000 Singaporeans aged 60 and above, which accounts for about one in 10 individuals, might be afflicted with dementia. With an ageing population, this concerning figure is projected to soar to 130,000 by 2030.
Symptoms of dementia
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. It is a neurocognitive disorder that comes with a progressive deterioration in multiple areas of functioning, such as memory, reasoning, and communication skills. Not only does it interfere with the daily lives of individuals, but it also adversely affects their family, caregivers, and other social relationships.
Common signs of dementia:
- Poor memory (e.g. forgetting words or names you once knew well)
- Getting lost in familiar environments
- Not being able to complete familiar tasks independently
- Behavioural or mood changes
Preventive measures for dementia
Adopting a healthy lifestyle may help prevent the early onset of dementia. Regular exercise, eating a healthy and varied diet, and maintaining a healthy weight range, all contribute towards good heart and blood vessel health, which reduces the risk of having dementia.
Ideally, adults aged 65 and older should undergo regular medical checkups to screen for dementia. Health screening is also essential to detect and treat potentially reversible medical causes of dementia, such as vitamin or nutritional deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, depression, vision or hearing impairment, or medication side effects.
If you suspect that you or your loved one may be suffering from dementia, you can see your family physician for an initial assessment. Apart from a thorough consultation and physical examination, blood tests and brain scans may be recommended. Depending on the subtype of dementia, medication may be prescribed to slow the progression of dementia or manage symptoms such as anxiety or behavioural changes. There are also resources available for caregivers of people with dementia, such as support groups, daycare, and respite care services.
As dementia is a progressive disease, you may also wish to start future planning by utilising medical services such as the Lasting Power of Attorney, Advanced Care Planning, and Advanced Medical Directive. By doing so, your wishes and preferences will be taken into account in the event you lose mental capacity to make decisions for yourself.
You can screen for dementia at Assure Family Clinic. Apart from standard health screening packages, Assure Family Clinic also offers add-on packages for older adults, including assessments of cognitive function, fall risk, joint health, nutrition and vitamin status, and screening for vision and hearing impairment.
Article contributed and reviewed by:
Dr Charis Au
Dr Charis Au is a registered Family Physician in Singapore with Graduate Diplomas in Family Medicine and Mental Health, as well as a Diploma in Aesthetic Medicine. She is also the medical director at Assure Family Clinic.
As a holistic doctor with 10 years of clinical experience, she pairs conventional medicine with lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, exercise and stress management to promote optimal well-being.