Dementia crisis on the horizon

HONG Kong is completely unprepared for a dementia crisis that is expected to come with an ageing population, a former government psychiatrist has warned.

David Tsang Fan-kwong (曾繁光), now in private practice after 20 years of public service, told a radio programme that dementia will be a major problem in 20 years. He said five in every 100 people aged 65 and over have dementia. The rate goes up to one in five for those over 80 and one in three for those 90 or above.

The government’s Census and Statistics Department (政府統計處) has forecast that one-third of the population will be over 65 by 2041, a trend that will affect policy planning.

Tsang said Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 70 percent of dementia patients.

He suggested that unhealthy eating habits of food with high sugar and fat content and lack of exercise could be significant risk factors for those getting dementia at a younger age.

“A growing number of people with hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and diabetes could lead to multiple mini-strokes that cause the brain to deteriorate and expose them to a higher risk of dementia.”

He added that those with Down’s Syndrome (唐氏綜合症) could also suffer from dementia at a young age.

Dementia that leads to a loss of memory, problems with understanding, language, and judgement is not curable, but Tsang urged an improvement in government support for patients and their caregivers.

“We do not have enough caretakers in the health sector, or the support for family members to improve the quality of life of these patients,” he said.

“We also cannot see any policy change or investment in the near future.”

(This article is published on The Student Standard on 11 May 2016)

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