Plans underway for a Tongan Alzheimer's association

September 2, 2017

Plans underway for a Tongan Alzheimer's association

Melino Maka, chair of the Tongan Advisory Council, at Te Wai o Horotiu. Photo: Hayley Stevenson

Moves are afoot to establish an Alzheimer’s association in Tonga, where more education around the disease is needed, says Melino Maka, the chair of the Tongan Advisory Council.

He told AUT students at the university’s Te Wai o Horotiu marae recently that both of his parents suffered from dementia.

“It’s my wish to establish an Alzheimer’s Association in Tonga as there’s no cure – this will be the first association launched in the Pacific.

“We’ve been going at it, and are invited to the London Alzheimer’s university.

“In April I went to the annual Alzheimer’s conference in Japan attended by 3000 delegates, including people with dementia, family-care partners, researchers, professional carers, clinicians and staff and volunteers of Alzheimer associations from over 70 countries.

“Tongans believe Alzheimer’s is a curse, a mental issue to be ashamed of, so there needs to be education around this,” said Mr Maka.

Alzheimer’s NZ chief executive Catherine Hall said dementia was a significant health issue in many countries.

“It’s important for more people to understand dementia and the impact it has on communities.

“We fully support the establishment of the Alzheimer’s Association in Tonga and their goals to raise more awareness of dementia in their country and are working with them to support their work.”

“For us in New Zealand, dementia is a growing health challenge. There are more than 60,000 people living with dementia now, and this is set to triple to more than 170,000 by 2050.

“To make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia, their care partners, and families, Alzheimer’s NZ and local Alzheimer’s organisations have adopted a ‘dementia-friendly NZ’ as their mission.

“We want New Zealand to be an open and inclusive society - a place where people with dementia feel valued and safe, and where they can contribute to and participate in their communities,” says Ms Hall.

Sione Taufa, vice chair of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, said Tongans were not immune from dementia. “In New Zealand the point of a diagnosis is for families to access support services.

“If Melino is wanting to establish an association that could provide similar family support services, I believe this would benefit Tongans suffering from the condition and their families.”