BHUBANESWAR: With India standing at the door of transitioning from a youthful population to fast ageing one, experts have warned of elderly diseases including dementia and Alzheimer’s assuming epidemic proportions unless focused attention is given.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s, among the most serious and distressing diseases in the elderly, are also the most neglected, thanks to multiple factors like acute lack of awareness, healthcare infrastructure, trained manpower and social stigma.
People with dementia suffer from severe decline in memory, ability to think and reason, thus impairing them from performing normal everyday activities. Alzheimer’s is a form of advanced dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of dementia cases.
Worldwide, there are five crore people diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s with one person detected to be afflicted every three seconds.
Interestingly, India doesn’t have any latest data on the disease and continues to rely on the 2010 estimation by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders society of India (ARDSI) that put the number at 41 lakh and projected to go up to 80 lakh by 2030.
National Coordinator of ARDSI Nilanjana Maulik said even as the number must have gone up significantly now it still would not give a true picture of the burden as only a fraction actually get diagnosed.
“One in five persons over 80 years of age is suffering from any grade of dementia and the number is one in 10 in age over 60. Considering the ageing population growing the fastest in India at a rate of over 3 per cent annually, coupled with significant rise in longevity, need of action for the future has become urgent,” she said.
While dementia cannot be cured, its progression to a completely debilitating stage can be prevented through treatment. Effective drug classes have been developed to deal with the disease.
“The bane though is serious lack of awareness both at the family, community and even medical level. Dementia is still seen as a part of ageing and not as a health condition. Even a substantial chunk of physicians deem it so. This is aggravated by the stigma attached, terming the sufferer mad or senile, which stops people from coming out and seeking medical help,” Maulik said.
The ARDSI, which is spearheading a nationwide movement for creating awareness on the disease, has called upon governments to take up dementia and Alzheimer’s as a public health priority.
The Society on Monday launched its Bhubaneswar Chapter at Puri. It will be led by Silver Age Foundation, Odisha’s first and only not-for-profit organization working for improving lives of senior citizens, and partnered by Paradeep Phosphates Ltd.
“Dementia doesn’t affect the sufferer alone, it has more serious impact on the entire family. The ARDSI Bhubaneswar Chapter will work towards generating mass awareness and aligning the medical fraternity to this important but neglected aspect to ensure persons with dementia live with dignity and honour”, said Secretary Amar Jyoti Mohapatra.
September is celebrated globally as Alzheimer’s Month to create awareness.