The number of people living with dementia in Barbados is expected to grow by over 250 per cent by 2050.
This is 100 per cent more than the growth average calculated for the Caribbean. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), dementia prevalence is set to increase in the Caribbean by 155 per cent by 2050, and at present, an estimated 4,087 people live with dementia in Barbados but that is predicted to jump to 10,420 in 17 years.
ADI reports that the regional efforts to tackle the neurodegenerative condition are too slow, with only 16 per cent of Caribbean countries developing a National Dementia Plan.
Paola Barbarino, chief executive officer of ADI, says developing, funding, and implementing National Dementia Plans is essential to improving health outcomes for people living in the Caribbean with dementia.
“A National Dementia Plan is a vital step in helping those living with dementia to have access to the support and services they need to live well, for longer,” says Barbarino. “Access to support and a care plan, including care at home and in community settings, at-home adaptations, and respite for carers, alongside medical treatments, are vital for people living with dementia, as well as their carers and family.”
“By denying Barbados and those across the region this support, governments are doing a disservice to their communities,” says Barbarino. “All people living with dementia in the Caribbean deserve access to the kinds of support and services a National Dementia Plan makes available. It’s their human right.”
ADI is calling for the public across the region to urge their governments to take urgent action against this “looming global health crisis”, teaming up with Alzheimer’s associations in Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Puerto Rico, St Maarten, St Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago to launch a regional campaign ‘What’s Your Plan’ (#WhatsYourPlan).
While a few countries in the region, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba have implemented National Dementia Plans, unfortunately, most are without adequate funding. The Caribbean ADI members participating in the #WhatsYourPlan campaign are yet to have any fully funded, implemented National Dementia Plan in their countries.
Through the #WhatsYourPlan campaign, ADI is urging governments to develop a plan that features, improvements in care for those living with dementia, support for carers and which implements key policies to help delay or reduce up to 40 per cent of the possible number of cases of dementia in the future.
“We’re talking with the various Ministries of Health, Age and Social Support in many Caribbean countries, and while in some cases it can lead to progress it is often too slow. For a condition like dementia, time is of the absolute essence. People cannot wait,” says Paola Barbarino. “We need people from all over the Caribbean to speak up for people with dementia so that their governments might actually listen and act.”
The ADI CEO asserted that due to a lack of funding, many communities will miss out on preparing for possible futures.
“Continued inaction now will lead to much greater health, care and societal challenges in managing dementia later,” says Barbarino. “Governments must have robust dementia strategies funded and in place, to save healthcare systems from being overwhelmed as dementia cases rise in the future.”
Research has found that the greatest risk factors for dementia in the Caribbean include cardiovascular health, diabetes, family history, older age, and education. Furthermore, women with lower levels of education in rural areas are overrepresented in dementia statistics in the Caribbean.
ADI maintains that risk reduction should be designed with a life-course approach in mind, targeting both older and younger populations.
Jackie Walcott, a caregiver to a person living with dementia in Barbados says in the number of years that she has been living here, she has seen a phenomenal rise in people being diagnosed and living with Dementia.
“Living with dementia in Barbados is frustrating for families and caregivers as there are limited support and services available especially after diagnosis” says Jackie. “Life does not stop for us at diagnosis. We need multi-disciplinary teams which includes gerontologists, ophthalmologists, dentists, dieticians, counsellors, etc to ensure our people have a good quality of life with dementia.”