Empty promises and blunt tools: Lack of funding stalls dementia progress in the Caribbean

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Despite recent statistics showing that dementia prevalence is set to increase in the Caribbean by 155 per cent by 2050, regional progress in tackling the neurodegenerative condition is far too slow, say Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the global federation for 105 Alzheimer’s and dementia associations across the world.

Only 16 per cent of Caribbean countries and territories have made progress in developing a National Dementia Plan, most of which have inadequate funding.

ADI is calling for the public across the Caribbean to urge their governments to take urgent action on dementia, teaming up with Alzheimer’s associations in Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, Grenada, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sint Maarten, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago to launch a regional campaign ‘What’s Your Plan‘ (#WhatsYourPlan).

Urgent action is required now: Dementia care is a human right

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.

Daisy Acosta, co-founder of The Asociacion Domincana de Alzheimer and former Chair of ADI says that the issue of dementia in the Caribbean is growing.

“Dementia is a real problem in our Caribbean countries. By 2050 almost 750,000 people will be living with dementia in region. Governments are not paying enough attention to because it is often still wrongly considered a normal part of ageing. Well IT IS NOT! Key policies can be taken that can help delay or reduce up to 40 per cent of the number of cases of dementia in the future. I urge our governments to invest now to save later!”

Paola Barbarino, ADI’s CEO, 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 Caribbeans 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.”

As the world’s population gets older, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is rapidly increasing, threatening to overwhelm health services in many countries. In 2019, dementia was ranked the 3rd leading cause of death in the Americas, accounting for over 390,000 deaths.

ADI is calling on people living in Caribbean countries participating in the #WhatsYourPlan campaign to urge their governments to develop a National Dementia Plan that features, improvements in care for those living with dementia, support for carers and to implement 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 & 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.”

Empty promises and blunt tools: Lack of funding stalling progress in the Caribbean

While some progress has been made in developing National Dementia Plans in the Caribbean, Paola Barbarino, ADI Chief Executive Officer, says that a lack of funding for these plans means many communities are missing out.

“A National Dementia Plan is a government’s best tool for preparing for this looming global health crisis,” says Barbarino. “Despite some progress to develop plans in a few Caribbean nations, without adequate funding to implement them, these plans are laying unused on the desks of bureaucracy across the region – more empty promises, and blunt tools.”

“Continued inaction now will lead to much greater health, care and societal challenges in managing dementia later,” continues 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.”

Over 740,000 people: While progress stalls, the number of people in the Caribbean living with dementia continues to soar

The latest estimates show that there will be over 740,000 people living with dementia in the Caribbean by 2050.

Research has found that the greatest risk factors for dementia in the Caribbean include Cardiovascular health, diabetes, family history, older age, education. Further, women with lower levels of education in rural areas are overrepresented in dementia statistics in the Caribbean.

Risk reduction should be designed with a life-course approach in mind, targeting both older and younger populations, with a focus on the modifiable 12 risk factors estimated to contribute to 40 per cent of the cases of those living with dementia.

1 Caribbean territories with Alzheimer’s associations participating in ADI’s ‘What’s Your Plan’ indicated in bold: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Cura?ao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands.

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