Understanding Dementia in Taiwan
Statistics from the Executive Yuan, Taiwan, have shown that in 2018, there are almost 280,000 people suffering from dementia in Taiwan, which means you will find one person in every 84 suffering from the disease. Furthermore, it has been estimated that by 2033, there would be 460,000 people with dementia in Taiwan.
The staggering number offers an underlying explanation: as the number of senior citizens in Taiwan has reached 14.05% in 2018, officially entering the phase of an “aged society” as indicated by the World Health Organization. However, these rising numbers are not particular to Taiwan, but a global phenomenon. As many countries are facing the challenges inherent to an ageing society, it has become pertinent for us to examine our care policy for people with dementia, their families and carers, as well as the advocacy of their rights and public understanding of their condition.
As a response to this social challenge, the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Taiwan has begun implementing the“Taiwan Dementia Policy: A Framework for Prevention and Care 2.0”on the 1st of January, 2017. The policy references the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025”proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Amongst which, one of the seven strategies of the Action Plan, “raising public awareness and acceptance of dementia”, is key to building a dementia-friendly society.
Currently, there are 333 Support Center for People with Dementia and their Families (SPDF) established to promote awareness, organize dementia-alleviating activities, and train home caregivers and support groups. The aim is for these community-based services to provide necessary care to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers locally, and build a community that is aware and supportive of their needs.
Apart from upgrading the necessary care and facilities for people with dementia, another important task at hand is about changing public perception of people with dementia. The Secretary General of the Taiwan Alzheimer Disease Association (TADA) Tang Li-Yu have stated in interviews that people with dementia can still live independent lives, and their illness should not prevent them from venturing out of their homes, either for social events or for pursing new hobbies. Even employment could continue to be a part of their lives. The key is to arrange the most appropriate work environment that would suit their condition.TADA is also encouraging local businesses to hire more people with dementia. The development of these new trends and concepts would evidently be beneficial to facilitating social inclusion for people with dementia, and for them to act and be acknowledged as valuable members of society.
It is obvious that dementia poses immense challenges for our society as a whole, yet it is also an opportunity to look back at our policies and experiences, to create innovative changes, enabling us to look forward to a truly inclusive, diverse and caring society.