During this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Virgin Islands should renew its commitment to strengthening support systems for residents with dementia.

Too often in the past, this community has treated dementia as an embarrassment to be hidden away from public view. But such silence does a grave disservice to sufferers, and it isolates family, friends and caregivers by depriving them of the understanding and support they need.

Fortunately, this attitude has been changing in recent years, thanks in no small part to the hard work of the VI Alzheimer’s Association, which was founded in 2016 and joined Alzheimer’s Disease International in 2019.

The association’s many public activities have helped the community understand Alzheimer’s and similar diseases, while also fostering open discussion and supporting patients and their families.

The VIAA routinely shares important information that everyone should know.

Healthy living, for instance, is key: From a young age, people can lower their risk of developing dementia by keeping their mind active, exercising, eating nutritious foods, and making other smart lifestyle choices.

And because early treatment can help slow dementia’s progress, it is also essential to know the warning signs, which include memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities, difficulties performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation, personality changes, and others.

Despite the efforts of the VIAA — which has joined the ranks of the territory’s most active non-governmental organisations — there is still much work to be done in the VI.

Continuing education is crucial, with an eye toward securing the buy-in of the entire community and working to change thinking at all levels of society.

Government must also step up to the plate. To that end, one urgent need is the new senior home that successive administrations had been promising for more than a decade even before Hurricane Irma. Existing facilities for housing the elderly are simply not adequate for the seniors who have sacrificed so much for this territory.

Other needed steps include revisiting the National Healthy Aging Policy — which government promised in 2015 but never adopted — and revitalising senior programmes that have stalled as a result of Hurricane Irma and the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is often said that a society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.

Dementia sufferers are among them, and the territory can do better.