Dr Vijay Chandra, Sr Consultant, Neurology with super specialisation in Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care talks on increasing trend of dementia and the lack of specialised experts, care facilities and awareness about the disease.
Q1. We don’t see much content or awareness on Dementia in India. Is it a disease that we should be worried about?
Absolutely, the latest research done by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India more than 4 million Indians above the age of 60 suffer from dementia. Moreover, every 1 in 16 households with elderly have a dementia patient. The trouble is that we are yet to realise and understand the symptoms. We usually associate the signs and symptoms of Dementia to growing old senility, where as in fact, he or she might be suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease or type of neurological disease causing dementia. India and especially the metropolitan cities such as New Delhi are moving towards a skewed population ratio, with more elders and fewer younger people. Moreover we have to realize that approximately 70% or Indian Population in rural where medical facilities are limited and dementia goes unrecognized. Thus on a nationwide basis, very few cases of dementia are identified. With time Dementia will be of epidemic proportion that the country will be battling.
Q2. What are the signs and symptoms that suggest that an elderly may be suffering from Dementia?
It is very important to understand the signs and symptoms and notice if your elders , preferably above 60 yrs are showing the same. Please note that on numerous occasions you may have ignore some of the signs citing old age. 10 important signs and symptoms that suggest dementia are:
- Memory changes: Your elder may forget major or minor personal information, events or familiar people. If this happens more than usual then one should consult a specialist.
- Difficulty in expressing oneself: They may be struggling to share their thoughts, express themselves or have a conversation with someone.
- Sudden changes in mood: Sudden mood swings with depression or changes in personality. Your elder may become withdrawn instead of usually being open and social, or vice versa.
- Disinterest in activities: Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that they used to prefer doing. Apathy towards any happening or emotion.
- Difficulty completing normal tasks: Your elder may start struggling to do the normal routine jobs such as wearing clothes properly, closing the buttons, combing hair or how to make tea.
- Confusion: Your elders may look or may feel confused on numerous occasions. They may struggle with their memory, have judgmental lapses or might forget the simple routine aspects such as their home address.
- Difficulty following story lines: For them it may become difficult to concentrate and follow a line of thought. They may also struggle with TV , news programs.
- Loss of sense of direction: Failing to remember important landmarks, places and home addresses are signs that clearly highlight a memory disease such as dementia.
- Being repetitive: Your elder may forget completing a task and might end up repeating a number of tasks out of habit or compulsion.
- Struggle to adapt to change: Since your elder is confused, they look out for familiarity. They become worried and sometimes aggressive if there is even a slight change, such as changing the bed location or a major change such as a change of residence.
Q3. Is dementia fatal? What are the steps to be taken if our elder is suffering from some of the listed signs and symptoms of dementia?
We need to understand that dementia is a neurological disease and not “normal old age” Dementia is not a psychological or a psychiatric disorder. It needs the expertise of a specialist neurologist with key interest in memory disorders, Alzeihmer’s disease and dementia. Please refer to the following :
- Consult a Dementia Expert Immediately
- Understand that your elder needs care
- Understand that you need to show patience towards the patient
- Understand that this disease has no cure and cannot be fully managed through medication
- Strategies for care are important – such as a routine