Dementia sufferer numbers increasing in Taiwan
Central News Agency
2009-06-08 05:49 PM
Taipei, June 8 (CNA) A signing activity for an online global petition calling for dementia to be made a health-care priority has been launched, the non-profit Taiwan Alzheimer's Disease Association (TADA) said Monday.

The petition aims to increase government awareness of the disease and improve the quality of life and care for individuals with dementia, according to the association.

The association organized a promotional activity Sunday to encourage local people to sign the Global Charter for Alzheimer's Disease petition.

During the Sunday event, the association also called on the government to adopt a more active and pragmatic approach toward care for dementia sufferers.

Chen Ta-fu, a doctor at the Neurology Department of National Taiwan University Hospital who concurrently serves as deputy chief of the TADA's education and publicity section, estimated the dementia prevalence among different age groups at 1.2 percent of people aged 65-69, 2.2 percent of those aged 70-74, 4.3 percent of those aged 75-79, 8.4 percent of those aged 80-84, 16.3 percent of those aged 85-89 and 30.9 percent of those aged 90 or over.

In Taiwan, the population of people suffering from dementia is around 160,000, a number that is expected to exceed 620,000 by 2056, or an increase of 10,000 people every year, according to TADA President Lee Ming-bing.

"This means that elderly population ratio is increasing and that the number of elderly citizens supported by every 100 young and middle-aged people will have increased from 14 to 75 by that time, " Lee elaborated.

At present, there are 2.4 million people aged 65 or over in the country, said Huang Pi-hsia, director of the Department of Social Affairs under the Ministry of the Interior. Of these, 10 percent are classed as disabled and 5 percent of those suffer from dementia.

Approximately 20,000 dementia sufferers are being cared for by various organizations and 120,000 are using services provided by their communities.

Huang suggested that future services for dementia sufferers should focus on local communities, such as setting up special areas, day care services and group homes.

At present, the assessment criteria for disability are different to those for dementia and elderly people with dementia are usually otherwise healthy and cannot be diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, according to TADA Secretary-General Tang Li-yu. They therefore require different care than other disabled elderly people, she said.

According to Lee, two major reforms of social welfare policy are in the works this year, including a long-term care insurance system and a scheme for international classification of functioning, disability and health, both of which have significant influence on the welfare of dementia patients.

(By Roger Chou)

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