Dementia Action (Awareness) Week 2018
This year, Dementia Awareness Week is changing to Dementia Action Week starting from 21st to 27th May, 2018.
While raising awareness and offering support will always be important, we must go further to create change in communities and change the attitude of people towards patients with Dementia. We need a fresher approach towards Dementia.
The Indian government announced ‘Ayushman Bharat’ scheme that will provide hospitalization cover to over 10 crore lower income families. While such steps are highly encouraging for the healthcare sector, we tend to ignore an increasingly alarming problem of our times – Dementia. India has more than 4 million dementia patients out of estimated 47 million patients worldwide.
3.7 million suffer from Alzheimer’s in India and most of the cases of Dementia go unrecognized. Only 1 in 10 dementia patients in Mumbai know they have “Dementia”, a study by Care24 revealed.
As per WHO, “Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behavior and ability to perform everyday activities.”
There are different forms of dementia; Alzheimer’s being one of the common ones. Dementia is generally classified in the following seven stages of cognitive decline:
Stage 1: No Impairment. During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident.
Stage 2: Very Mild Decline: Personal awareness of some functional decline
Stage 3: Mild Decline: Noticeable deficits in demanding job situations
Stage 4: Moderate Decline: Requires assistance in complicated tasks such as handling finances, planning etc.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline: Requires assistance in taking decisions
Stage 6: Severe Decline: Requires assistance in daily activities. Experiences urinary and fecal incontinence.
Stage 7: Very Severe Decline: Speech ability declines & progressive loss of abilities to walk, sit up, smile, and hold head up.
While different individuals will have unique experiences in each stage, understanding what to expect along the way can be helpful for care planning. In addition, knowing where a loved one falls on the scale can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
“NOT JUST AWARENESS; WE NEED ACTION”
An attitude of acceptance can greatly encourage patients to come to terms with the change. This attitude can be reflected in our everyday simple actions.
Simple rules to create a healthier environment at home are:
* Do not take early memory loss symptoms as normal condition of ageing.
*There is no cure but an early diagnosis can help in slowing down the cognitive decline.
*Patients lose their rational abilities and so struggle to take complicated decisions and follow steps. Being kind and patient with them is the key.
*There are short-term memory issues but normally the long-term memories and experiences are intact. This is why they like to repeat their stories.
*Most of the dementia related behaviors are triggered by an external factor. Aggressive behavior is common but a small loving gesture or joke can distract them and make them forget about the agitation.
*As the patient slides into later stages, rearrange their surroundings so that it is least frustrating for them to do simple tasks. Adding color strips for bathroom or using photo cards for their brush, towel etc. will make their life easier and less frustrating.
*Remember that even in late stages of dementia, a patient’s ability to experience emotions is not hampered so create moments of joys for them. Do more of the activities that they like to do.
*Give only one instruction at a time. If guided step by step, they can perform their tasks.
*Regularly meet the doctor and do not hesitate to ask for the professional help if the condition becomes unmanageable
*Do not forget to share the responsibilities of caring with a sibling or another family member.
*With the right balance of knowledge and compassion we will not only prepare the patient but also ourselves in overcoming the difficulties of Dementia.
Healthcare providers, government and support groups need to recognize that diseases of the elderly are going to be a very important public health problem in India. The prevalence of this disorder is accelerating and unrecognized cases of mild dementia is common in our population. Cognitive screening programs for the elderly, quality homecare for these patients and public education policies designed to increase awareness of early signs of dementia are needed if interventions for individuals with potentially treatable dementias are to be implemented.
We should work on modules for training attendants in cognitive exercises that would in turn help patients with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer, Dementia etc. Patients with Dementia deserve our love and respect, and in some stages they need full-time care and attention that only a professional caregiver can provide.
The major challenge that needs to be addressed is changing the mentality of the people towards this burgeoning crisis. People need to be made aware of the fact that dementia and related problems are not merely old-age related ailments. These are neurological complications that affect the aged and need proper diagnosis, care and support. Proactive diagnosis of dementia is the need of the hour.
Holistic treatment management with home healthcare providers and the family awareness in taking active care of the patient will bring the best care to the patient.
Care24, a leading player in the home healthcare space that offers personal and reliable healthcare assistance within the comforts of one’s home, works actively towards handling patients with Dementia by providing them the much needed care and support.
Garima Tripathi, Cofounder of Care24, a Health Services Company is taking up the plunge to bring quality medical care to the patients’ doorstep, and this is a one-of-a-kind initiative to transform ‘in-home patient care’ in India.
In Picture: Garima Tripathi