Recent findings suggest the prevalence and cases of Alzheimer’s disease (senile dementia) have increased in Nigeria over the last two decades. However, population-wide response to dementia is lacking.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. Memory loss and confusion are the main symptoms. No cure exists, but medication and management strategies may temporarily improve symptoms. It is very common as more than 1.5 million cases are reportedly detected every year in Nigeria.
As part of efforts to address the condition in Nigeria, to mark 2022 World Alzheimer’s Month-September and World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21, the 5th anniversary of Gabi-Williams Alzheimer’s Foundation (GWAF) and yearly memorial lecture, which held on Tuesday September 20, 2022 brainstormed on promoting Alzheimer’s awareness and caregiver infrastructure.
The GWAF was instituted in honour of late Dr. Gabisiu Ayodele Williams – a pioneer in public health who passed on exactly five years ago. World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign from Alzheimer’s disease International that takes place every September. Each September, people unite from all corners of the world to raise awareness and to challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s disease and all types of dementia.
According to GWAF, this year’s theme, “Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s,” continues on from the 2021 campaign, which focused on diagnosis, the warning signs of dementia, the continued effect of COVID-19 on the global dementia community and more.
The GWAF 5th anniversary and memorial lecture dealt extensively on Alzheimer’s awareness, the well being of dementia patients and necessity to always provide essential support to caregivers.
The occasion kicked off with a welcome address by a trustee of the Foundation, Ms. Olatoun Williams. In her address, she made the point very clear that the event was not only to celebrate GWAF’s 5th anniversary but to also step up efforts towards Alzheimer’s prevention and management through acquisition of knowledge about the devastating disease.
Also, setting the ball rolling at the occasion, a senior officer of GWAF, Mr. Peter Olaniyan, went on to shed light on the achievements, which this front-running Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) has recorded in five years. These include among others, advocacy and awareness creation about Alzheimer’s/Dementia, which according to him has reached multitudes across Lagos State, holding series of training and capacity building workshops, which have yielded sustainable cordial relationship between the Foundation and foremost training institutions.
Olaniyan said other achievements of GWAF are reaching out to elderly population of faith based organisations, benevolently running a direct aid programme through which the outfit gives consumables, cash or equipment to respite/care homes, championing Mental Health School Campaign otherwise known as “Old School Hip Hop”. Olaniyan said the programme has reached over 5,000 school age children in Lagos State.
Olaniyan said what is central in the speeches delivered by experts is strong emphasis on intensifying Alzheimer’s awareness, managing the ailment and giving necessary support to care givers in order to reduce the heavy toll and trauma the deadly disease is inflicting on the patients. The experts also advised that proper arrangements be put in place for early detection of symptoms through diagnosis for timely intervention since according to them; there is apparently no cure for the disease widely considered as not a normal part of ageing.
While noting the fact that Alzheimer’s patients go through a kind of hell of not being able to recognise objects or associates occasioned by loss of memory, the participants made a clarion call for help to those who are victims of mentally deranging disease to enable them live and to also find ultimate cure for this dreaded affliction.
One of the distinguished Guest Speakers at the event was Dr. James M. Noble – a renowned leader in neurologic education, Columbia University and best-selling author of “Navigating Life With Dementia”.
Other dignitaries that participated include: Rear Admiral Rufus Eyitayo (rtd); Dr. Tunde Ojo – National Co-ordinator, Mental Health Programme and representative of Federal Ministry of Health; Engr. (Dr.) Olufemi Lalude – Chairman of the occasion; Secretary GWAF Board of Trustee – Prof. (Dr.) Jide Gabi – Williams; Members of Advisory Council – Ms. Bola Oshikanlu; Ambassador Albert Omotayo; Mrs. Mopelola Bailey – a trustee; Bashorun J.K Randle – member Advisory Council; the wife of late Dr. Gabi – Williams, who is the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, and many more.
According to a study published in the Journal of Global Health Reports and titled “Prevalence of dementia in Nigeria: a systematic review of the evidence”, “in Nigeria, several communities still link dementia to a normal process of ageing, with many patients stigmatised and abandoned in the belief that their condition is beyond any medical intervention. Thus, many of those affected delay seeking medical care and endure poor outcomes. This is exacerbated by poor mental health service access, which partly results in high out-of-pocket expenses that few can afford.”