Dr. José Novoa, Triple-S Chief Medical Officer
This is Alzheimer’s and Dementia month. It is a global effort to raise awareness about this frightening disease that ends up isolating those who suffer from these conditions. However, it does not have to be that way.
The Dementia Friends initiative of the Alzheimer’s Association trains individuals, families, groups, physicians, institutions, businesses, in short, anyone who understands the condition and see how to assist with small acts so that those who have dementia can live a more and longer independent life.
According to the Puerto Rico Department of Health, there are approximately 80,000 people with dementia in the island. People with dementia have difficulty carrying out daily life tasks. They forget how to withdraw money from the ATM, what to buy when grocery shopping, or the steps to take when running errands at government agencies, whether at Hacienda (Puerto Rico Department of Treasury), the DTOP (Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works), or any other.
And when we find ourselves in line at the grocery store, ATM or pharmacy we lose patience when we see a person who has difficulty completing the task because they are confused. When the person seeks help, we often avoid them. Experiences like these repeatedly isolate the person who is trying to continue an independent life. Even their family members choose not to take them to restaurants or other events to avoid awkward situations. Little by little, without realizing it as a society, we are closing the circle, contributing to cutting their ties with the community, aggravating their situation and, consequently, increasing the burden on their caregivers and family members.
At Triple-S, we have established an alliance with Dementia Friends Puerto Rico and the Alzheimer’s Association to support the coordination and dissemination of the workshops. As long as we are aware as a society, we can help these patients to maintain an independent life in the community.
Dementia Friends can help improve the quality of life of patients and their families, reduce the burden on the health system, and become a more inclusive society by training medical offices, hospitals, businesses and government agencies to be Dementia friendly. The Dementia Friends certification is free and is obtained after completing a workshop. For more information, call 787-749-4949 ext. 8322700. Look for the initiative seal, a forget-me-not flower symbol.