There are 36 million elders worldwide living with dementia, a progressive and degenerative brain disorder. Nearly 7.7 million new cases are added to this every year at the rate of one in every four seconds, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In India, over 3.7 million elders are living with dementia and 30,000 of them are in Bangalore.
Associated with symptoms such as loss of memory, impaired judgement and reasoning, difficulty in day-to-day functioning and changes in mood and behaviour, dementia is not a part of normal ageing. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
According to Radha S. Murthy, managing trustee of Nightingales Centre for Ageing and Alzheimer’s, the most important aspect of dementia is care provision as there are no drugs to slow the progression and to manage the behavioural problems.
To mark World Alzheimer’s Day, which is observed on September 21, and to create awareness about the disease, the Nightingales Centre along with Bangalore Chapter of Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) and ETCM Hospital, Kolar, jointly organised a 60- km Marathon Memory Walk from Kolar to Bangalore.
On the occasion, the organisers submitted a memorandum to the State government, demanding the setting up of more memory clinics, day-care facilities and geriatric wards in government hospitals. While pressing for the inclusion of geriatrics care in medical and paramedical curriculum, the memorandum also sought the setting up of minimum standards of facilities and services in old age homes and a regulatory body to monitor their functioning.
“We are focussing on making Bangalore a dementia-friendly city. All our efforts are aimed at increasing awareness among the public about dementia. We are also keen that government healthcare professionals are trained in memory screening and dementia care,” Dr. Murthy said.
Quoting the Dementia India report, Dr. Murthy said there are only 100 memory clinics in the country. This figure is appalling as India has a population of over 100 million elders. There should be at least one memory clinic attached with a dementia day-care facility in each district of the State, she said.
“Memory clinics are equipped to diagnose elders with dementia and also educate and provide families with the supportive guidance required to manage those with dementia. In the absence of memory clinics, dementia is diagnosed but not explained properly, resulting in untold distress to the caregiver,” she explained.
“Dementia cannot be cured but it can certainly be managed and this is done best by qualified professionals (including neurologists and psychiatrists trained in dementia care) in memory clinics,” Dr. Murthy added.