Nationwide program needed for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, say experts

Senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, often at times go missing from their homes. According to recently released Indian National Crime Records Bureau 2016 - reportedly there are total of 30,767 missing senior citizens. In 2016 alone, 13,236 were reported missing. 17,531 were reported missing from the previous years. Only 9,467 were found, i.e. just 30.8% among these figures

Nationwide program needed for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, say experts

On Wednesday, an incident was reported wherein a senior citizen from Versova went missing and was found after 30 hours in Cuffe Parade.

Kiran Sharma (name changed), a 76-year-old suffering from Alzheimer’s and diabetes has no memory of how he reached Cuffe Parade.

On Wednesday noon, patrolling policemen spotted Sharma in Cuffe Parade. He couldn’t remember his name and address. An officer recollected that Sharma was the same person whose picture was in the message that was circulated on their group and dialled the numbers mentioned in it.

This incident highlights the risk faced by senior citizens affected by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other mental illnesses.

Speaking to My Medical Mantra, Sailesh Mishra, social activist and founder of NGO Silver Innings, said, “Frequently, we get messages of elderly people who have gone missing. Many times, it is due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Families need to take this seriously, as 90% of the time these elders are not found, as they suffer from memory loss.”

He added, “The central government is not doing enough for senior citizens. Basically, senior citizen issues are not an important concern for the government. The government also isn’t aware about the reasons for senior citizens going missing. Alzheimer’s and dementia are the main reasons behind them going missing. Therefore, the government has to take measures to step against this issue.”

According to him the government has to take some major steps such as:

  • The government should start and implement a 4 digit helpline number.
  • Like foreign countries, they should provide tracker facilities for these people.
  • These trackers devises for the elderly people should be affordable.

He further added, “It’s not only the government’s responsibility to take care of these patients. Family and society also has a role to play in protecting and taking care of these patients. If there is a person in your family suffering from dementia, do not neglect them or their disease. Supporting them is not a shameful thing to do. Families should keep the information of their name, address and phone number in their pockets as a preventive measure.”

Dr Om Prakash, Associate Professor, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) said, “In a person suffering from dementia, their brain function is decreased. It is a common thing for a dementia patient to forget his/her address. Identifying dementia in its early stages is crucial. The central government should make a national program for dementia. Even in the already existing senior citizen fund, a separate fund should be allocated to provide support for dementia patients.”

NGO’s and organisations working toward the welfare of senior citizens affected with mental illnesses have stated that the state and union government should formulate a policy for senior citizens who are affected with Alzheimer’s and dementia.