Most people lack basic knowledge of dementia, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am

Elderly people are advised to play mahjong and do volunteer work to protect against dementia, which is estimated to affect 6.5 per cent of Hong Kong people over 70.

The advice was given yesterday on the eve of World Alzheimer's Day, with the release of a survey showing that while 80 per cent of respondents knew what dementia is, many still held misconceptions about the disease.

The survey involved 1,002 people aged 18 to 64, of whom 14 per cent had close relatives with the disease.

It found that 93 per cent did not mind disclosing they had relatives suffering from dementia, but 60 per cent did not think people should consult a doctor if they feared they had early symptoms of it.

It also found that 59 per cent thought dementia only affected memory, and that 25 per cent thought it was the same as Parkinson's disease.

'Some of the respondents have yet to grasp a proper understanding of preventative measures for dementia,' said Timothy Kwok Chi-yui, project director of the Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing and a professor at Chinese University.

He said these steps included playing mahjong, volunteering, exercising often and eating more vegetables.

Chan Wai-man, assistant director of Family and Elderly Health Services at the Department of Health, said: 'We encourage them to play mahjong because they must use their brains and do calculations in order to win. The same goes for reading, playing chess, card games or writing.

'Activities which continue to stimulate the brain will be very useful. Just sitting before the television will not help,' she said.

She also urged people who suspected that their relatives might have dementia to take them to a doctor as soon as possible.

'Very often we find that a lot of elderly with dementia are not seeing doctors until they are into the second or third year of their illness, by which time it has caused a lot of stress for their relatives and a lot of disruption to their daily lives.'