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State urged to make dementia a health priority

Staff Correspondent
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Students taking out a rally in Mysore on Saturday to spread awareness on Alzheimer's disease.— Photo: M.A. Sriram
Students taking out a rally in Mysore on Saturday to spread awareness on Alzheimer's disease.— Photo: M.A. Sriram

The Mysore chapter of the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) on Saturday urged the State to make dementia, a progressive and degenerative brain disorder, a health priority and develop plans to deal with the disease.

Besides appealing to the government to increase funding for dementia research, ARDSI, in a memorandum to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, suggested the implementation of packages of care identified for dementia under the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Plan.

ARDSI’s Mysore chapter organised a ‘Memory walk’, a rally for awareness on Alzheimer’s disease here on Saturday. Students and faculty members of Sarada Vilas College of Pharmacy here took out the rally which began from Kote Anjaneyaswamy Temple and culminated at the Deputy Commissioner’s office, where the memorandum was submitted to the Chief Minister and Minister for Health through the Deputy Commissioner.

In the memorandum, copies of which were released to the press here, ARDSI chairman Jayaraman said the government must develop policies and plans for long-term care that anticipate and address social and demographic trends and also focus on supporting family caregivers and ensuring social protection of vulnerable people with dementia.

Besides introducing a non-contributory social pension scheme for the patients, the government can also ensure that the people with dementia were eligible for disability benefits.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly, and WHO estimates that 18-25 million persons were affected in 2000. The number could go up to 32-40 million by 2020.

Symptoms

ARDSI said the damage first strikes the areas of the brain that control memory, which is why memory problems are the first symptoms to be noticed in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. As damage progresses to other areas of the brain, problems with other brain functions develop. Alzheimer’s disease can affect every part of the brain, it said in the memorandum.

The current treatments focus on modifying the progression of the disease and helping manage symptoms. Medicines are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease which may help maintain cognitive function.

“No drugs till date can change the underlying disease process. Other drugs are used to manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, in particular the agitation, anxiety and depression that accompanies the disease,” according to the memorandum.

Financial stress

A key problem being faced by the families of people suffering from Alzheimer’s is financial stress.

Someone with even a mild touch of the disease needs home care, while those who have been severely affected by the condition require long-term care in a nursing home or similar institution.

‘Government should ensure that people with dementia are eligible for disability benefits’

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