The importance of memory screening is underscored over and over again by the Co-Founder and President of the Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation (LAF), Lorraine Yu.It is not just advice to do this or that – LAF facilitates this vital screening every fortnight throughout the year, all for free with no price-tag being placed on it. “Every [...]


Giving love, care and support to their clients

Lorraine Yu, Co-Founder and President of the Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation (LAF) explains the important role played by the foundation

A client enjoys a game of carrom

The importance of memory screening is underscored over and over again by the Co-Founder and President of the Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation (LAF), Lorraine Yu.It is not just advice to do this or that – LAF facilitates this vital screening every fortnight throughout the year, all for free with no price-tag being placed on it.

Lorraine Yu: Reiterates the importance of memory screening. Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

“Every three seconds somebody in the world develops dementia. But only a few receive a proper diagnosis and even those few receive it late. Dementia is one of the most significant global health and social crises of the 21st century,” says Ms. Yu, meeting MediScene amidst a busy schedule as LAF is organizing many events this month.

Referring to the early signs of dementia, she says that it would not be normal if someone keeps asking the same information repeatedly like ‘What is your name’ three or four times within a few minutes. This would indicate short-term memory loss and difficulty in retaining new information. Recent memory impairment is not a normal part of ageing.

Ms. Yu echoes Dr. Padma Gunaratne when she says that when someone is diagnosed with dementia, the family needs to be educated and made aware on how to manage him/her. The carers also need someone to talk to and “respite” from looking after a loved one with dementia.

A helping hand at the foundation

The LAF set up way back in 2001 has an all-important Activity Centre because research has proven that non-pharmacological intervention is far more beneficial, she says, pointing out that while there is no cure for dementia there is a drug that may retard the progression of the disease in a third of the people with dementia, but that too for a short period of time.

The disability is not visible in those with dementia. They could say and do certain things which may not be acceptable in social circles, as there is a lack of education and awareness on this subject in the community. This leads to their families being embarrassed and becoming protective and isolating them. Then they start to feel lonely which could very well result in depression which, in turn, is a high risk factor for dementia, she explains.

LAF’s Activity Centre is set in a beautiful, calm and tranquil environment – an oasis for people with dementia who are called ‘clients’ and not patients.
When a client is brought in he/she would be interviewed, screened and registered and can then come on Monday, Wednesday or Friday and engage in different types of therapy between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., supported by volunteers.

Love, care and support is what the Activity Centre provides with a person-centred approach, it is understood. The background, skills, likes and dislikes of each client are known and we try to make use of their skills to promote self-esteem and self-worth, says Ms. Yu, explaining how a client gets upset when ‘Danny Boy’ is played on the piano and as such the volunteers ensure that it does not happen.

The leisurely morning for the clients begins with a sit-around in the garden or in the hall biting into biscuits and having steaming cups of tea, engaging in general conversation and discussing headlines followed by music and dance therapy. About 10, they would walk into the auditorium and engage in arts and crafts of their choice. Lunch is a vegetarian meal, cooked keeping in mind risk-reduction followed by dessert. Then there would be light exercises to improve reflexes and more word games to keep them mentally stimulated.

Looking at Friday’s session, she smiles as she says that four men have bonded very well together and would await their friends’ company eagerly.
“This is an outing for those with dementia, with the family having the assurance that it is a safe and secure environment where the illness is understood and no one is judgmental,” says Ms. Yu.

Clients enjoying morning tea in the ‘Memory Garden Café’

Having a maximum of 18-20 clients on any given day, for LAF believes in quality rather than quantity, it is a win-win situation for all, MediScene learns. It is a weekly outing for the clients; it is a respite for the carers where they can take the day off from caring and recharge their batteries for their wellbeing; and finally the volunteers get an opportunity to make a difference.

Did you know that due to the burden of care-giving, the carer dies before the person with dementia? Then who will look after him/her? Invariably they have to be sent into care-homes, says Ms. Yu, next creating the image of how volunteers feel. They say that it is the best day of their week, where they use the day well and purposefully, making them happy, content and enriched.

Pointing out that life does not stop when dementia starts, Ms. Yu says that those with dementia need to be treated with respect and dignity.
Ms Yu’s dream is a dementia-friendly Sri Lanka.


They ran to remember
September, the World Alzheimer’s Month, is dedicated to jogging our psyche about dementia and already LAF has held its five-km ‘Run to Remember’.
While the run was flagged off by Johann, the first Sri Lankan male to summit Mount Everest, on September 1(World Alzheimer’s Day), on the cards are a unique art exhibition and the five-km Memory Walk.The art exhibition of 26 collages created by Sabine Ferber from paintings done by clients of the Activity Centre will be held at the Barefoot Gallery, Colombo 3, from September 22-30, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Meanwhile, the Memory Walk on September 29 will kickoff at 8 a.m. from the Angsana Garden of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo 3.

The LAF is based at 110, Ketawalamulla Lane, Maradana. It may be contacted on Helpline:
011-2667080 or General Lines: 011-2667082/4.
The email is: and the website:

The run in progress. Pic by Amila Gamage

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