It can be normal to notice your older relatives begin to behave strangely. Misplaced keys, losing track of conversations, forgetting names of close family members and forgetfulness is usually waved off as harmless signs of old age. In reality, they could also indicate the early stages of some of the most common diseases to affect senior citizens: dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. All three diseases affect brain function, and there are currently no available cures.
In Malaysia, it is estimated that around 50,000 people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, while patients with Parkinson’s disease are believed to number around 15,000 to 20,000 people. As of 2005, it was reported that 0.063% of the population suffered from some form of dementia. This number is expected to reach 0.454% by 2050 due to our ageing population. However, the statistics may be skewed because many people still go undiagnosed. This may be due to a lack of awareness among Malaysians regarding mental health issues. Many also believe that dementia or Parkinson’s are simply a natural part of growing old, and opt to deal with it on their own rather than seek help with managing it.