Qatar has set up a national helpline to provide confidential information and advice for patients living with Alzheimer’s and their families, according to Dr Hanadi al-Hamad, Qatar’s National Health Strategy lead for Healthy Ageing and medical director of Rumailah Hospital and Qatar Rehabilitation Institute.
“Carers, often family members, can be overwhelmed with the challenges of caring for a relative in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s dementia. They often feel ashamed or conflicted about asking for help or advice because they feel they are obligated to provide care to their parent or other elderly relative. We have set up a national helpline to provide confidential information and advice for patients living with Alzheimer’s and their families. The Raha Alzheimer’s and Memory Services Helpline is available on 4026 2222 between 8am and 3pm, from Sunday to Thursday,” she said in a statement issued by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
Dr al-Hamad has been a key driving force in the development of geriatric care services and Alzheimer’s awareness in Qatar. She is also the WHO representative for Elderly People Care for Qatar, the Global Dementia Observatory focal point, and an executive member of the European Association of Medicine of Ageing.
"Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia, which is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide around 50mn people have dementia, with nearly 10mn new cases emerging every year," the statement explained.
Last year, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) conducted one of the largest ever global studies on attitudes about dementia as a part of ongoing efforts to help reduce stigma and increase awareness about Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia. Nearly 70,000 people across 155 countries, including Qatar, completed the survey. The findings were published in the World Alzheimer Report 2019: Attitudes to Dementia. Some of the most notable findings included that almost 80% of the general public are concerned about developing dementia at some point in their life and that one in four people think there is nothing they can do to prevent dementia.
The report also revealed that 35% of carers across the world said they have hidden a family member’s dementia diagnosis. More than 50% of carers globally say their health has suffered as a result of their caregiver responsibilities, even while expressing positive sentiments about their role. Additionally, almost 62% of healthcare providers worldwide think that dementia is part of normal ageing and about 40% of the general public believe doctors and nurses ignore people with dementia.
ADI research has shown that globally two out of every three people believe there is little or no understanding of dementia in their country. The impact of World Alzheimer's Month is growing, but the stigmatisation and misinformation that surrounds dementia remain a global challenge, the statement adds.
“While awareness of dementia is increasing around the world, especially in higher-income countries, understanding of Alzheimer’s remains low. This has frequently led to a negative impact on patients living with Alzheimer’s, their families and communities,” Dr al-Hamad said.
“Elderly people with Alzheimer’s often have multiple medical co-morbidities, meaning they have one or more additional diseases or disorders that need medical care. However, Alzheimer’s symptoms can often make it more difficult to provide even simple care. Often, families delay seeking medical support for a family member with Alzheimer’s, or delay getting a diagnosis, due to stigma,” she explained.
Throughout September, HMC is supporting World Alzheimer's Month with a series of public awareness events that underpin the global campaign theme of 'Let’s Talk About Dementia'. Due to Covid-19 restrictions limiting public gatherings, this year’s campaign features an educational webinar for university students and faculty.
Around the world, Alzheimer's disease awareness is represented by the colour purple. In solidarity with all people living with this disease, on September 21 key landmark buildings in Doha and near the Doha Corniche will be lit up in purple.