“Our centre takes care of about 40 dementia patients. We have around 30 trained carers, apart from general staff. The biggest challenge we face is finding people who want to engage in care giving, and retaining them,” said Mansi Atre, administration manager at Dignity Lifestyle Township, Neral. She echoed the larger issue of lack of manpower needed to manage dementia.
According to Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), a voluntary organisation that helps manage Alzheimer’s and Dementia, 4.1 million people in India suffer from dementia and this number is set to double by 2030. Experts said despite the rising numbers, there is a lack of care facilities in the country to help manage dementia.
“Dementia is going to be our biggest worry now, given the rising numbers and paucity of professional facilities to manage the condition,” said Dr Alka Subramanium, psychiatrist from Nair Hospital, Mumbai, adding, “We do not have a specific unit for dementia, but we do have an OPD for geriatric care.”
Prasad Bhide, the founder of Aaji Care Home Health Services and Aarambh, a 24/7 home and day care centre for the elderly, said caring for the elderly is an issue that is much larger than meets the eye. “Today, managing the elderly is becoming a challenge because every member of a family goes out for work. They have to rely on attendants and carers. The challenge for families with dementia suffers becomes bigger since they have to find trained staff to take care of their dear ones,” he explained.
A former IT professional, Bhide started began these initiatives when his mother fell ill and he realised how difficult it is to find trained professionals in India to care for the elderly. “When I started Aaji Care Home Health Services in 2012, I realised there was a dearth of professional care givers. I did a professional course and begun training people to care for the elderly,” he said.
“It is not easy to manage people affected by dementia at home, they need special care,” said Bhide, adding, “Our centre has 16 residents, of whom 12 suffer from dementia. Of the three who visit the day care centre, two suffer from dementia. We keep them occupied with yoga, creative games and group activities. We provide counselling, physiotherapy sessions and nursing care.”
Sailesh Mishra, founder of Silver Innings, an assisted elder care home which has a special project named A1 Snehanjali for dementia said lack of funds, infrastructure and manpower are major challenges faced by dementia care professionals.
“These problems are compounded by the way the seniors are perceived. Traditionally, we believe that once a person retires, his life is almost aimless. They themselves feel they need to retire and head towards pilgrimage. The first thing that needs to change is the way the seniors look at themselves. If they don’t consider their cause important, no one will,” he asserted.
Home care can be an option for dementia sufferers, but most of the options available in India at present are not equipped to manage them holistically. “The attendants can take care of the basic needs of people suffering with dementia, but they cannot do what a professional caregiver can. Trained carers can help with counselling, engaging activities, physiotherapy and social aspects. A person affected with dementia needs a lot of care and attention,” he said.
Some experts have pointed out that another key aspect in managing dementia is counselling the families of the patients. Dr Sangeeta Ravat, professor and head of neurology, KEM Hospital, said, “It is very important to counsel the families and relatives of people who suffer from dementia. This is because they need to be very patient with those who suffer from this condition. They also need to realise that dementia cannot be treated; it can only be managed.”
Dr Subramanium, meanwhile, shared a positive word of advice. “Our erratic lifestyle can be held as a cause for dementia. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle – a regular exercise pattern, proper sleep and balanced diet – dementia can be prevented to a certain extent.