KUALA LUMPUR: A medical expert has lamented the lack of healthcare professionals trained to treat and care for patients with dementia despite the growing number of Malaysians suffering from diseases related to the condition.
Dr Tan Maw Pin, a professor in geriatric medicine at Universiti Malaya, told FMT she feared that this could lead to the misdiagnosis of elderly patients, the usual victims of dementia.
Doctors specialising in geriatrics would be able to detect dementia, she said, but added that there were too few of them in the country despite the large number of elderly people seeking treatment for various complaints.
She said more than half of the patients admitted to hospitals nowadays were older than 60.
She added that a dementia sufferer, if wrongly diagnosed, could end up getting unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatment.
For example, she said, a hospital might decide to admit such a patient and prevent him from moving about for fear he would fall.
“This could degrade the muscles and the patient may even leave the hospital not able to walk.”
Tan said training posts in the health ministry were limited by the number of scholarships available, but this has been addressed by offering training opportunities without scholarships.
She also spoke of care-giving centres catering to patients with dementia, saying there were only a handful and that they focused on maintaining the functions of the patients besides providing basic care for the elderly.
The Private Aged Healthcare Facilities and Services Act, which was passed in 2008, may come into effect next year, and Tan said this might result in improvements in the standard of care offered by such homes.
She warned that the improvement of standards might result in higher costs and suggested that the government subsidise care for the elderly.
Tan said dementia was underdiagnosed in the country because people normally associated memory and function loss with old age, and would expect children to tend to their elders’ every need.
The 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey found that 8.5% of Malaysians above the age of 60 had dementia. The number is expected to grow as the ageing population in the country increases.