[A version of this abstract appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT) Volume 1 Issue 8 March 2011].
Schoolchildren in Hong Kong have been trained to spot the signs of dementia in their elderly relatives. This approach to detecting dementia is proposed to be potentially useful in any country which lacks an integrated primary care system.
The prompt identification of people with early dementia helps families to make timely preparations. It also identifies the sufferers who are in need of social support. Educating young people about dementia is considered important in Hong Kong, because the prevalence of dementia is predicted to rise sharply in this country’s ageing population.
Private sector family doctors, who commonly provide the primary care in Tai Po, were also given training in diagnosing and managing dementia.
Researchers sent 2000 questionnaires to 20 primary schools and 23 secondary schools for children to complete with their parents. Respondents were asked whether their family had members aged 75 or more, whether those family members had shown a decline in memory recently, whether they had complained of losing personal belongings etc. The survey had a 92% response rate, and 17% of these identified an elderly relative with significant memory loss, who could then be given cognitive assessments by trained volunteer assessors and referred for further medical assessment if necessary.
David Dai, secretary of the Hong Kong Alzheimer’s Disease Association, said:
“UK studies have shown that 50% are not diagnosed in the early stages, but it’s even worse in Hong Kong. A 2005 community survey by the Department of Health and the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 10% of over 75s have dementia, but 90% of them have not been diagnosed”.
Organisations in Macau, Malaysia, and Australia are said to be interested in the implementation of similar projects.
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Parry, J. (2011). Hong Kong schoolchildren get training to detect dementia in elderly relatives. BMJ. 2011 January 31st 2011; Vol.342:d663.