NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Government of The Bahamas “is going to be relentless” in its efforts to ensure that older persons living in The Bahamas have access to the resources that will improve their overall quality of life and general functioning while addressing some of the key concerns facing the them, including mental health issues, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie S. Griffin said Wednesday.
Minister Griffin also announced that the Government, in consultation with the National Council on Older Persons, is currently in the process of drafting National Legislation that will further ensure that the rights of the elderly are protected and that “they enjoy the remainder of their days in dignity and self-worth.”
“Older persons in our country can be confident in the Government’s resolve to ensure that they will remain full and active participants in our society. Furthermore, through my ministry and other relevant agencies of the State, the Government will continue, and where necessary ensure, that services are in place to assist older persons in enjoying lives of dignity and self worth.”
Mrs. Griffin said a growing number of older persons in The Bahamas are presenting, and being diagnosed with Depression, which — along with Dementia and Delirium — are three of the most common forms of mental illness experienced by older persons within The Bahamas and globally.
“In the United States it is estimated that depression in later life affects six million Americans over the age of 65. While we are unable to determine the level of persons suffering from this illness in The Bahamas, we are aware that there are a growing number of persons with this condition presenting themselves for our services.
“Statistics clearly suggest that as the demographics of our population ages, the prospects for an increase in mental illness amongst our elderly will occur,” Mrs. Griffin added.
Addressing an older persons workshop on Mental Health and Aging held as part of the activities celebrating Older Persons Month in The Bahamas, Mrs. Griffin said additional research indicates that factors such as genetics, cognitive issues and life stressors relating to the loss of family and friends, poverty and abuse (mental, physical and financial), also contribute to depression in older persons in The Bahamas.
Hosted by the Senior Citizens Unit of the Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Community Development, the workshop at St. Gregory’s Anglican Church was attended by participants from the public and private sectors including doctors, nurses, caregivers, healthcare workers, Social Workers, Case Aides and senior staff of the Department of Social Services; officials of the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre; and officials of both the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force, in addition to officials of the National Council on Older Persons.
Older Persons Month is being celebrated this month globally under the theme: “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting and Society For All” and is a collaborative effort between the Ministry, the Department of Social Services and the National Council on Older Persons – chaired by Mrs. Juliette Barnwell.
Presentations included Managing Delirium and Dementia by Dr. Indira Grimes, Senior Registrar at the Geriatric Hospital, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre; and Depression and Older Persons by Dr. Uanna Burrows, Registrar, Geriatric Hospital, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre.
Dr. Jennifer Marshall-Mackey, a Registered Nurse/Midwife, Talk Show Host and Caregiver, gave a Caregiver’s Perspective.
Mrs. Griffin said the theme, adopted from the United Nations’ General Assembly in celebration of International Day of Older Persons, was very timely as it “denotes that the dynamics which contribute to successful aging must also be considered in the general and national development plans of all countries.”
“Aging, like other stages of life, has its challenges and rewards. We have an obligation, however, to ensure that the challenges are not too difficult for our older persons to bear and that support is provided where and when necessary,” Mrs. Griffin added.