Dementia patients suffering through lack of specialised care

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 9:29am

Dementia patients and their carers need their own specialised community support instead of having to rely on services designed to help the elderly, a social welfare organisation says.

St James' Settlement pointed to a difference in needs, with most dementia patients experiencing emotional problems and a loss of cognitive abilities rather than physical limitations. It called on the government to provide more community support to reduce the social costs of caring for such patients.

"There are about 130,000 people with the disease in Hong Kong," said Zero Kwok Wai-sang, St James' senior manager for regional service for the elderly. "But there is no government-subsidised care centre catering specially for the needs of dementia patients."

In an 18-month survey of 129 carers, 85 per cent said services for the elderly did not meet the needs of dementia patients, St James' Settlement found. About 90 per cent said they did not use any day-care services, as those were deemed unhelpful.

Kwok noted that many dementia patients were not entitled to social benefits such as community care service vouchers meant for the elderly. He said many people were willing to take care of family members afflicted with the disease in their own homes, which reduced the social costs of sending them to public old people's homes.

But caring for such patients can be stressful. A 73-year-old carer said the bad temper and frequent toilet visits of her mother, 93, who has dementia, wore her down. The pair depend on savings and old-age pensions.

"There is no way out," the carer said. "She's my mother. I have to take care of her."