BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei is expected to see an increase in dementia cases due to the high prevalence of non-communicable disease among the population, said the vice-president of Demensia Brunei, a new NGO aimed at raising more awareness on the disease. 

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing, said Irnawati Hj Mahir, trying to clear up a common misconception about the disease.

Stroke, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and hypertension all increase the risk of dementia, although the disease can also be triggered by severe head injuries.

Most of Brunei’s 2,000 dementia patients suffer from vascular dementia, a decline in cognitive skills caused by a series of mini-strokes which destroys brain cells.

“Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are the two main types of dementia that we experience in Brunei. Dementia is often incorrectly associated with senility in the elderly, but it’s a disease that must be treated properly,” Irnawati said.

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While the risk of dementia does increase with age, early on-set of the condition can also occur in young people.

“It is possible for young people to have dementia, there are dementia cases affecting people in their 30s. Even though we haven’t seen those cases in Brunei, it highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Irnawati added.

Participants in a workshop engage in activities to better understand the symptoms and effects of dementia. Photo: Courtesy of Demensia Brunei

How to recognise dementia

Dementia is exhibited by a decline in memory or thinking skills which severely curtails an individual’s ability to carry out daily activities.

The warning signs are:

  1. Memory loss
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  3. Problems with language
  4. Poor or decreased judgement
  5. Disorientation of time and place
  6. Problems keeping track of things
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Changes in mood and behaviour
  9. Trouble with images and spatial relationships
  10. Withdrawal from work or social activities

The disease is progressive and there is no known cure but there are ways to reduce one’s risk of getting dementia, said Irnawati, such as eating healthy, not smoking and engaging in physical activity — all which reduce the risk of non-communicable disease. 

Genetics is also a major risk factor — studies show that there is a 50 percent chance of inheriting dementia from an affected parent. 

Demensia Brunei is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on the rights of persons with dementia and  improving the standard of care for people living with the condition. The NGO runs workshops to raise awareness about the disease nationally and to educate people about caring for individuals with dementia.  

For more details on the workshop, interested parties can reach out to demensia.brunei@gmail.com.