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In India, no dignity in dementia


Way back in 2007, scientists from Johns Hopkins University concluded at the Alzheimer's Association conference in Washington that over 26 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease - a number set to quadruple by 2050. The prediction shocked the world as it woke up to the menace of this braindestroying condition.

Two years later, the definitive World Alzheimer's report, compiled by the world's top dementia scientists, admitted that the problem was much worse. Their conclusion was that 35 million people worldwide would be suffering from dementia (90 per cent of which were Alzheimer's cases) in 2010 and that the number is set to almost double every 20 years to 65. 7 million in 2030 and 115. 4 million in 2050. Several countries woke up and started to put in place services for the old, like homes to support dementia patients, screening programmes and treatment protocols. India, however, didn't bother to take any such action.

Today, an estimated 37 lakh people in India are affected by dementia, which is expected to double by 2030. Despite the magnitude, there is gross ignorance and neglect, and services are scarce for people with Alzheimer's and their families. According to a landmark "India Dementia Report 2010", which will be released on September 21 by Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) - and is now exclusively available with TOI-Crest - it is estimated that the cost of taking care of a patient with Alzheimer's is about Rs 43, 000 annually, much of which is met by the families.

According to Dr Daisy Acosta, chairman of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), the costs of caring for Alzheimer's sufferers is likely to rise even faster than the disease's prevalence - especially in the developing world. "This is a wake-up call that Alzheimer's is the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century, " said Dr Acosta. "World governments are woefully unprepared for the social and economic disruptions this disease will cause, " she added.

Alzheimer's is a chronic syndrome characterised by a progressive deterioration in intellect including memory, learning, orientation, language, comprehension and judgement. It mainly affects older people;only about 2 per cent of cases start before the age of 65 years. After this, the prevalence doubles every five years, becoming one of the major causes of disability in late-life.

Experts say India was home to more than 75 million people older than 60 years in 2001. This age group, which was 7. 5 per cent of the population, is growing. Significant demographic ageing with the elderly population now above 8 per cent has been seen in Himachal Pradesh (9), Punjab (9), Maharashtra (8. 7), Tamil Nadu (8. 8), Orissa (8. 3), Goa (8. 3), and Pondicherry (8. 3). "The demand for geriatric services, related to dementia, will soon be overwhelming, " Dr Roy says.

Dr J D Mukherji, head of neurology at Max Hospital, Delhi, said the biggest problem in India is that public awareness about Alzheimer's is low and this has serious consequences. "Soon, we will have plaque-blasting medicines that can delay Alzheimer's by causing plaque deposits to integrate. So early diagnosis is vital. At present, diagnosis is largely missed, mainly in non-metropolitan centres. The government needs to initiate awareness about dementia and introduce its study at the undergraduate level for medical students, " Dr Mukherji said.

According to the India Dementia report, no structured training exists on the recognition and management of dementia at any level of health service. PwD are stigmatised because the underlying cause is not understood. According to the World Alzheimer's report 2009, "The healthcare needs of older people have for too long been under-prioritised. This is now changing due in part to the fact that demographic ageing of population is proceeding more rapidly than first anticipated, specially in India. "

Reader's opinion (11)

Satyu kashyapMay 26th, 2011 at 15:48 PM

Even the big corporate hospitals who spend crores on generating literatures on aarthritis, cardiac conditions dont consider it necessary tobring about an awareness on Alzemiers. Why ? Not revenue generating perhaps. Same holds good with Kidney diseases. Why ??

Shahnawaz KaziSep 18th, 2010 at 23:37 PM

Most people in our country are unaware about Alzheimer's. People should be educated about the disease so that they should be able to take care of their near and dear ones who may be suffering from Alzheimer

Dilip KumarSep 18th, 2010 at 22:45 PM

Physicaly Active lifestyle is the best solution and of course laughing is the best medicine...

Arun KapoorSep 18th, 2010 at 21:37 PM

Indian government should sponsor research on Alzheimer's and other neurodegeneration disease without wasting anytime! There is a lot of potential in Indian traditional herbal medicine for example! It has now been scientifically proved that Bacopa monniera (Bramhmi) protects against alzheimer's.

Umesh DavdaSep 18th, 2010 at 21:33 PM

They need lots of care ,love and attention ,see BBC series Young ones .it was an eye opnener for every one .Care homes will just gives them pills and put them to sleep.

Sandeep BhatkalSep 18th, 2010 at 20:41 PM

My father is 78 years old now and suffering from Dementia. We do not have special clinic to identify and treat this. His elder brother and elder sister also had the same. Is this a hereditary disease?

Lal Chand SundaSep 18th, 2010 at 20:23 PM

It is the right time for Indians to wake up & understand the disease process known as Alzheimer's disease.Awareness regarding the disease process is to be spread among masses as a large number of the carers of the unfortunate disease sufferers don't even understand that is different from normal aging

Vinod DawdaSep 18th, 2010 at 19:45 PM

There is no dignity in dementia anywhere let alone India so it makes sense just to concentrate on the tragedy of dementia and raise the awareness, Remember that half the people in India are not sure of there next decent meal!

Rakesh Sep 18th, 2010 at 17:12 PM

Equally untreated and ignored in India is Parkinsons Disease. I sometime back read a statistic that India faces a severe shortage of Neurologists. Government needs to come out with a wholistic health policy and address the severe shortcomings in national healthcare management.

Hamza AbdullaSep 18th, 2010 at 13:50 PM

very useful & informative.

Skumar KumarSep 18th, 2010 at 13:04 PM

Government and especially health ministry has to take socialawareness program

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