Dubai community organisation offers support for expats with Alzheimer’s

A community organisation held a session for more than 50 Dubai residents in Jumeirah in what it hopes is the first in a series of events to support patients.

Members of the Golden Age group enjoy quilling at Costa Cafe on Jumeirah Beach Road as part of the Alzheimer’s Cafe initiative. Talks, arts and crafts and workshops are planned to help address living with the condition. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // Arts and crafts, quilling and community talks are being used to help stem the onset of Alzheimer’s in elderly expats.

A community organisation held a session for more than 50 Dubai residents in Jumeirah in what it hopes is the first in a series of events to support patients.

Alzheimer’s is irreversible, but studies have shown communication, memory exercises and social gatherings can help slow the process.

“The purpose is to create awareness about Alzheimer’s and encourage elderly people to engage in thinking activities as much as possible,” said Desiree Vlekken, founder of 4get-me-not.

“Sadly, Alzheimer’s is most common with the senior population. While there is no successful cure for this debilitating disease, the 4get-me-not Alzheimer’s Café can help engage brain and memory activities to delay its progress.”

Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and cognitive skills, and eventually the ability to carry out simple tasks. The symptoms first appear in their mid-60s, in a majority of cases.

“According to Alzheimer’s Disease International there is an estimated 3,000 diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s in the UAE as of 2016. This may be a very small number but it becomes alarming if we contemplate on the undiagnosed cases,” said Ms Vlekken.

“The best way to quantify this effectively is to first de-stigmatise Alzheimer’s, which we have been doing. Eventually, we hope to an propose an Alzheimer’s policy on a national level with support from our parent organisation, UAE Genetic Disease Association.”

As part of the event in Jumeirah on Tuesday, Virajkumari Jadeja, a quilling expert, taught the paper-shaping craft to the group, most of whom were in their 60s.

“Quilling helps improve the eye-hand-mind coordination,” she said.

“It improves one’s memory by stimulating and keeping sharp one’s mind through this artistic nutrition, which cannot just help an Alzheimer’s patient but all elderly people who are not using their brain as they used to.

“I felt elevated by the smiles and happiness all of the elderly people taking part. They were open to new ideas and wanted to learn more about quilling.”

Naseem Durrani, chairman of Gold Age Group, a senior citizen community group in Dubai, said interaction was crucial.

“Most elderly people and their families, don’t realise that how crucial is to keep the brain active and healthy along with other parts of the body,” he said.

“Most of senior citizens when retired, keep their brain in idle condition, which is in fact like inviting Alzheimer’s disease to a healthy brain. Learning activities and sharing knowledge will help elders in the city to fight against the disease.”

The gathering will take place every month and anyone can participate.

Dr Maryam Matar, chairman and founder of the UAE Genetic Diseases Association, said: “We will continue to reach out to high-risk groups and engage in regular conversation and events.

“Awareness is the key to empowerment, and knowledge is power for the community when it comes to well-being and health awareness.”

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