Campaign dementia care

Published on September 18th, 2013

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Why dementia awareness matters

It strikes elders and its progress is often silent. But one can live a quality life even with the disease.
by Echoing Healthy Ageing, Mumbai

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s day. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. There are about 3.7 million people in India living with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementias. While there are over 100 different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.

‘Dementia’ is a term that the doctor uses when someone has a number of problems with thinking and remembering. A sufferer of dementia typically faces problems that interfere with his or her ability to do things that they used to be able to manage in the past. Dementia mainly affects people over the age of 65 and the likelihood of the disease occurring increases with age.

Dealing with dementiaThe disease is incurable and progressive. A person with dementia slowly loses the ability to do things. The life expectancy of a person with dementia is unpredictable, and the disease can progress for up to around 10 years. The person who has it cannot control it.

Dementia can have a devastating effect on the person who has it, and on their family. Because it attacks the brain, it slowly leaves people lacking the ability to understand the world around them in the way they used to be able to. This is very difficult for people to properly understand and so the person with dementia is continuously asked to do things that they either struggle with, or that their brain can no longer do. This obviously leads to frustration, anger and often depression. A person with dementia will often retreat into themselves, or become enraged and inconsolable, until just a shell of the original person can be seen. Like a person drowning in deep water, the person with dementia will get tired and either sink under or scream and shout. These responses are usually thought to just be symptoms of Dementia, but actually it is people’s response to being interacted with in a way that does not take their brain damage properly into account.

How does one deal with it?

While there is no medicine, dementia-sensitive care can make an enormous difference. Dementia doesn’t have to be distressing – the person with dementia can have a fantastic life, and their family can have great relationships with them. It is crucial to help the person experiencing dementia to maintain control over as many areas of their life as possible, and encourage them to maximise their remaining abiilities. It is important to remember that the person with dementia has not lost their reason, instead they have lost the ability to process information, which is what we keep asking them to do.

All is not lost for a person struck by dementia – it is possible to lead a good quality life provided sufficient and appropriate care is provided to the person, and his or her condition and behaviour is seen in the context of the disorder. We at EHA have organised a seminar, ‘Dementia Sense’, which will provide insights on persons living with dementia and provide guidelines to create an environment that promotes well being for people living with dementia. (See details below). The approach to the disease cannot be a neutral, common sense one – when we use common sense around dementia, our strategies fail because we are not understanding the world from the person with dementia.

About the seminar:

The ‘Dementia Sense’ seminar will take place from September 19 to 21, 2013 and will give practical solutions to how to interact with one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world. Call Echoing Healthy Aging on 91586 56665 for venue details. Registration cost is Rs 499. Log on to www.echoinghealthyageing.com for more information. The speaker for the seminar is Shanta Gyanchand, a specialist dementia care wellbeing consultant and a UK-trained psychotherapist.

The Metrognome supports Alzheimer’s Awareness Month all through September 2013. Tell us about your organisation’s/individual efforts to fight this deadly disease and we will feature your story.

(Pictures courtesy EHA, www.thehindu.com)

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