Social activist and founder of NGO Silver Innings Sailesh Mishra throws light on caring for dementia patients. Mishra and Nilanjana Maulik, secretary of Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) Kolkata chapter, were recently certified as international master practitioners in dementia care from Perth-based Dementia Care International
“Treating dementia should be about the human being, and not the condition,”emphasised Sailesh Mishra, the founder of Silver Inning foundation a NGO working for senior citizens. “We need a broader and more positive approach to treat those suffering from dementia. The understanding of their situation needs to come from the heart, not just from the head,” he added.
Mishra along with Nilanjana Maulik, secretary of Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) Kolkata Chapter, recently underwent a three-week programme at Dementia Care International, a renowned organisation specialising in supporting people with dementia and their carers, in Perth, Australia. Social activists who have dedicated their lives to provide care to person with dementia, Mishra and Maulik are among few in India who have been certified international master practitioners in dementia care by the organisation.
Dementia, which leads to deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform day-to-day activities, is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among the elderly, worldwide. Though India has seen a rise in cases of dementia, there is a lot that remains to be done as far as managing the condition is concerned.
The programme that Mishra and Maulik attended aimed at addressing the issues around providing care for person with dementia. According to Mishra, the course offered a practical and sustainable way of enriching the lives of the patients, their families and carers, and transforming the culture of dementia care.
Putting the programme into perspective, Mishra said, “The course is based on the spark of life philosophy and it was about the connection that a carer can establish with a person affected by dementia. Through the three weeks, the carers were counselled to foster kindness, compassion, empathy, respect and unconditional love during interactions between patients and families.”
Mishra shared a case of 70-year-old person with dementia, who was facing resistance from her family members due to her condition. “The patient was aggressive and had not bathed for several days. Her grandchildren stopped going near to her. However, after counselling sessions and following eye-to-eye communication, her condition improved. We don’t realise but just a touch can convey immense amount of love,” he said.
Mishra, who has been practising this approach to treat people with dementia at Silver Innings and A1 Snehanjali, said he will now train his staff and other stakeholders with his newly-acquired knowledge of the philosophy of healing dementia patients.
“A lot of people with dementia are neglected, and many do not seek or get correct diagnosis or treatment. Lack of awareness, social stigma and non-availability of skilled human resource are the main causes,” said Mishra. He added that it is very important for family members to observe the changes in the behaviour of elderly people around them.
“If they are confused, find it difficult to do their daily tasks, feel insecure and agitated, please seek help. Also, try to understand their condition rather than getting irritated or angry. Sit with them, talk to them, give a tight hug. All this can work wonders,” he said, adding, “Consult specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists, or geriatricians as soon as you spot symptoms. And be calm with person who is suffering from dementia, they are your own people.”
According to World Health Organisation, there are around 47 million people who have dementia, worldwide, and there are 9.9 million new cases every year. Alzheimer’s is a most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases. In India, there are estimated 4.3 million people who suffer some form of dementia like Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia and Mixed Dementia.
According to Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDISI), the number of people with dementia is expected to rise to about seven million by 2020 and rapidly escalate to reach 13 to 14 million by 2050.