KUALA LUMPUR - THE number of people suffering from dementia in Malaysia is expected to double in 10 years and more attention is needed to treat the disease.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said currently, there were 63,000 people with dementia in Malaysia and the figure was expected to increase to 127,000 patients in 2020.

'As the Malaysian population ages, diseases associated with old age will become more common,' he said in his speech when opening the 13th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International yesterday. Mr Liow urged the public to bring their family members suffering from dementia to the doctor at an early stage and not wait until patients present psychological and behavioural problems.

'Early diagnosis is essential to rule out reversible causes of memory loss, as not all are due to Alzheimer's Disease,' he said, adding that educating and preparing patient and care giver in the early stages will prepare them for the future. To improve early detection, cognitive screening programmes were implemented for elderly patients, from age 60, at primary healthcare centres, he said.

It was estimated that 24.3 million people suffer from dementia globally, with one new case every seven seconds, he said. Later, at a press conference, Mr Liow said there were only 13 geriatricians in the country when 560 geriatricians were needed for Malaysia's 28 million population.

The Ministry also embarked on formal training programme for all categories of staff and had came up with the second edition of the Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Management of Dementia this year, he said.

M'sia dementia cases to rise