The government should be prepared to tackle dementia in the coming years by creating a band of trained professional caregivers, and roping in the support of doctors practising Indian systems of medicine, said E.S. Krishnamoorthy, Director of the Institute of Neurological Sciences, India.
Dr. Krishnamoorthy is one of four global advisors who have assisted the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Alzheimer's Disease International in preparing a report, ‘Dementia- A public Health Priority', which was released on April 11.
The report states that in 2010, there were 35.6 million people in the world with dementia. By 2030, that number will double and by 2050 it will triple. One in eight persons over the age of 65, and one in 2.5 persons over the age of 85, is at risk for dementia. However, only eight of the 194 WHO member countries have a national dementia plan in place.
Dr. Krishnamoorthy, who discussed the importance of the report at a press conference here on Monday, said given that the country had 100 million elders now, and this number was expected to double by 2025, it is important for the government to recognise the potential public health crisis and develop strategies to tackle it. “Delay in recognising the condition leads to more burden on the caregivers. People who are in the third stage need round-the-clock care and the cost of care-giving also increases,” he said. “By 2025, more than half the dementia cases will be in China and India. While the number of persons with dementia doubles, the costs of care-giving will triple in India.” Complications such as respiratory distress, urinary tract infections and bedsores increase the cost of care, adding to the burden of informal, unorganised care, Dr. Krishnamoorthy added.
It is not that India cannot rise to the occasion. According to him, the unique caregiver model in Kerala is an exercise worthy of emulation. Also, India can look to support from homoeopathic, Ayurvedic and other Indian systems of medicine as they could help maintain the quality of life of those with dementia.
The medical curriculum given to healthcare professionals includes diseases of ageing. In developed nations, technology is increasingly used to maintain care systems, such as reminders to feed, bathe, etc. Such methods are currently in vogue to follow up on conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. The Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme could be tweaked and caregivers of persons with dementia could be rewarded by recognising them and making them trained, professional caregivers, he added.
This would decentralise care giving, Dr. Krishnamoorthy said.