HelpAge International and the Centre for Palliative Care, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Shahbag, Dhaka, joined forces in a training session to provide awareness of dementia and define the role of palliative care for dementia patients in Bangladesh. Fazle-Noor Biswas, clinical pharmacist at the Centre for Palliative Care, explains.
Dementia is a syndrome that is chronic or progressive in nature, where there is deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgment but does not affect the level of consciousness. Worldwide, 47.5 million people have dementia and 7.7 million people are newly diagnosed every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes dementia as a public health priority. In Bangladesh, dementia is the 10th most common non-communicable disease. Worldwide, dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. As the number of older people increases dementia has become an emerging issue in palliative care.
To increase awareness of dementia, HelpAge International (HAI) and the Centre for Palliative Care (CPC) at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka jointly organized the first part of a daylong workshop on dementia, supported by the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA). The workshop was held at the Centre for Palliative Care in Dhaka on 7 November 2015 with a follow-up session to be held in the future. HelpAge International is a non-governmental organization that works with older people to help them to achieve a better quality of life. A team, consisting of a senior policy officer, a consultant, a project officer and a capacity building and program assistant came from HAI to train CPC staff about how to care for older people and people with dementia. The workshop aimed to increase awareness about dementia, to focus on the needs of older people, to examine what we can do for them, and to define the role of palliative care for dementia patients.
Almost 40 participants – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and palliative care assistants – took part in the workshop. Professor Nezamuddin Ahmad, head of the Centre for Palliative Care, started the session with a warm, welcome speech. He discussed the classification of ageing, basic ageing issues, initiatives for ageing (national and global), and the contribution of older people. An interesting part of the first session was ‘Let’s be an older person’ where every participant played the role of an older person with hearing, visual and breathing problems. After the role play, I realized that older people can feel loneliness and helplessness in their life and that sometimes nobody listens to them. The second session looked at ‘Dementia linked to ageing and care giving (Home, Community and Social)’ followed by discussion on what we can do, and the next steps to help older people.
Locally, the Bangladesh Dementia Action Alliance foundation has taken some initiatives for people with dementia. This training session has made palliative care providers at CPC realize that we must take responsibility for persons with dementia, which is an incurable disease, and seek to support their quality of life.