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Focus on growing number of dementia cases in developing nations

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CARING TOUCH: Guests interact with a senior citizen at the Dementia Day Care Centre of Dignity Foundation in Chennai on Monday.
CARING TOUCH: Guests interact with a senior citizen at the Dementia Day Care Centre of Dignity Foundation in Chennai on Monday.

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: When one watches Tripura Sundari talk and mingle with guests, it is hard to guess her age.

She is 88 years old and except for the wrinkles and the wheelchair that restricts her movement, the senior citizen likes to see people around, and her daily exercise and the ‘bhajans’ that she sings keep her going.

“Two years ago, a fall shook her, especially bringing an aggressive attitude towards everything. But for the last five months after enrolling in the day care centre, she has been showing a remarkable difference,” says her daughter Usha Shiva.

Sundari ‘paati,’ as she is known, is among the four new elders who have enrolled at the Dignity Foundation’s Dementia Day Care Centre at Palavakkam.

Those in need of care and treatment are picked and dropped to and from the facility, besides engaging them in a host of activities.

On Monday, Sarada Menon, founder, Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), formally launched the centre, housed inside Vishranthi, a home for the aged.

Offering services

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Menon lauded the efforts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in offering maximum number of services for the mentally-ill and the elderly.

“One does not have to wait till 60 to detect Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, Alzheimer’s is a post-mortem on dementia,” said Ms. Menon.

She pointed out the increasing number of cases in developing countries.

“There are 24.3 million people with dementia in the world and the numbers are increasing in developing countries.

In Tamil Nadu, 8.8 per cent of the total population have dementia,” she said.

Sheelu Srinivasan, founder, Dignity Foundation, spoke of how the idea of starting a day care centre came up.

“Dementia is literally a thief living in your family, catch the thief and start medical treatment,” said Ms. Srinivasan.

She said one sure symptom of dementia is not memory loss, but loss of language. “Empathy is what everybody with dementia wants,” she said.

K. Radhakrishnan, director, Dignity Foundation, said that this is the 10th service that the foundation was adding to its list.

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