Don’t lose your mind!

Omkar Paranjape
Saturday, 22 September 2018

This disease is characterised by unusual loss of memory, which ends up disrupting daily activities

In India, four million people are afflicted with some form of Dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050. 

World Alzheimer’s Day, on 21 September, is a focal point for charities and research organisations to raise awareness of all forms of dementia, as well as Alzheimer’s, named after German scientist Dr Alois Alzheimer who first identified it. 

This disease is characterised by unusual loss of memory, which often deteriorates over a period of time and ends up disrupting daily activities. The world over, around 50 mn people are said to be affected by this dreaded illness, the Alzheimer’s Disease International reported in 2017. 

India, too, has seen a rise in the number of cases being reported, and close to 4 million people are said to suffer from it. 

Despite Alzheimer’s and dementia affecting so many people in India, a poll from Alzheimer’s Research showed that 22% of adults thing dementia is an ‘inevitable’ part of getting older, and only half thought it was a cause of death.

It is important to understand and accept the diagnosis of dementia with presence of mind. Mental health professionals can help on that count. 

Mangala Joglekar, Co-ordinator with the Memory Clinic at the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital’s Neurology Department says the Indian society lacks awareness about neurological disorders - a common problem of ageing.

“As a society, we have already overcome so many challenges, including developing life changing treatment. Alzheimer’s and other dementias are now one of society’s biggest medical challenges, but overcoming them isn’t impossible,” Joglekar states.

Joglekar, who has worked with around 500 patients in eight years, has set up memory improving clinics, cognitive training sessions and support groups for the patients and their families, who need a divergent mindset while tackling such delicate issues.

Neeta Kelkar, a counsellor by profession, has chosen a unique way of taking Dementia to masses and spread awareness- with the help of streetplays.

Along with Sucheta Bapat, Yashshri Huddar and Anuja Kelkar-Paranjape, Neeta has set-up a 30 minute play, in which different cases of Dementia are portrayed, discussed and a few hints given to address it.

“It can be tricky for people suffering from Dementia to confess it to the doctor or their relatives. Hence getting a few hints is crucial,” she adds.

Bringing in a psychological part in it, Neeta elaborates, “Giving an audio-visual effect in form of story-narrating or a street play rather than an arduous long lecture can make it more interesting for the mob.”

Alzheimer’s Society India has put three myths and misconceptions about dementia to bed
- Dementia just affects your memory
When people think of the word dementia, then tend to also think of memory problems, but it’s not true that it only affects memory. While dementia often begins by affecting short-term memory, it can also affect people’s concentration.
- Dementia is a natural part of growing old
This is not the case, dementia doesn’t care how old you are. In India there are more than 40,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia, known as young-onset dementia. 
- Alzheimer’s disease is the only type of dementia
Alzheimer’s is just one of the various diseases that cause dementia, affecting 62% of people diagnosed. Alzheimer’s disease causes nerve cells to die, damaging the tissue and chemistry of the brain. 

Three tips on how to effectively communicate with someone who has moderate to severe dementia
- Recognise what you’re up against. Dementia inevitably gets worse with time. People with dementia will gradually have a more difficult time understanding others, as well as communicating in general.
- Avoid distractions. Try to find a place and time to talk when there aren’t a lot of distractions present. This allows your loved one to focus all their mental energy on the conversation.
- Talk about one thing at a time. Someone with dementia may not be able to engage in the mental juggling involved in maintaining a conversation with multiple threads.

Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital’s Memory Clinic will organise a special programme for dementia caregivers on September 29 between 4 to 6.30 pm at Meena Choksi hall in the new building.

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