A range of activities keeps those with dementia occupied at centre

Every day brings hope to the elders who come to Dementia Day Care Centre at Palavakkam on East Coast Road.

The six elders who are currently in the centre look forward to the trip from their homes, sometimes more than 30 km on the other side of the city.

Their day begins at 10 a.m. at the centre with a prayer and exercise. A. Gaana Rupini, the professional social worker in-charge of the centre, plans their activities based on their individual interest.

“If a person enjoys solving crossword puzzles, I encourage them,” she says.

Sarojini remembers only her name. She cannot recall how many children she has. She has a way with colours and spends the day sketching and colouring them. S. Parrah, a homemaker who spends two days a week volunteering at the centre, says she prods Sarojini's memory but with little success.

Ramachandran (80), a retired government official, remembers his home and his surroundings but his bouts of forgetfulness leave him baffled and his family worried.

“I will walk away from my house and forget my way. Then someone on the street will bring me back home. My daughter is doing her Ph.D. and gets worried about me. So she sends me to the daycare centre,” he says. Since he enjoys correcting grammatical errors, Ms. Rupini prepares letters with errors. “I also prepare fake accounts for him to solve,” she says.

The family is encouraged to provide photo albums that are used to jog the memory of the elders. They are involved in therapies such as identifying smell by stimulating their olfactory senses and listening to music, which relaxes them. They return home around 4 p.m. relaxed and ready for a good night's sleep.

The centre, run by Dignity Foundation, charges Rs.5,000 a month for each member and facilities include lunch and snacks, besides a monthly check-up by a medical psychiatrist. Vimala Rao, the psychiatrist, says: “We test their memory for orientation of time, day, date and month to check for stagnation or progression of the disease.”

The centre runs on charity, and support from philanthropists would help expand its services, says K. Radhakrishnan, Director of the foundation's Chennai chapter.

Volunteers must have empathy

“Volunteers must have empathy to deal with them. Most of the elderly are from upper middle class homes in the 70-plus age group. We also have a meeting with the family members every month,” he adds. “We would like homemakers who have time to help us.”

Additional funding could improve services and ensure better facilities for the elders in their twilight years. Situated inside the campus of Vishranthi, a home for the destitute aged, the centre can be reached on its helpline 24493165.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012