“We have a lot to do as a society to encourage active aging and to help other adults recognize that it is a matter of their right to seek help when they need it; and we as a society, need to able to give the kind of support and infrastructure required for their care.”
Dementia is a chronic, debilitating, neurodegenerative syndrome that is characterized by a decline in cognitive function and abilities, beyond what may be expected from normal ageing. It affects behavior, memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgment. Everyday activities become a chore and taking care of oneself, a feat.
The symptoms of dementia are often misconceived as the effects of natural ageing and therefore, identification and diagnosis become challenging. Dementia is one of the major causes of dependency among the elderly community worldwide.
The physical, psychological, and socio-economic impacts of dementia affect not only those who contract it, but also their caregivers, families, and society as a whole.
Ageing is the primary risk factor in contracting dementia. The Indian demography is under flux. India which has hitherto been a young nation is aging rapidly. According to the projections UNFPA Ageing Report 2018, the elderly population in India is expected to triple by 2050, accounting for 20% of the total Indian Population i.e., 1 in every 6 people would be above the age of 65 years.
The incidences of dementia are bound to increase in correspondence with the increased volume of the ageing population. These statistics ask the question – is the Indian geriatric healthcare system as it exists today, prepared or sufficiently potent to effectively deal with dementia as a possible public health issue in the near future?
In pursuance of this question, this edition of Vichaar had the honor of hosting Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Jayashree Dasgupta, the co-founder and project director at Samvedna Senior Care, an organization that caters to the care needs of elders and dementia patients.
Dr. Dasgupta begins by evaluating the enormous socio-economic costs related to dementia which will be wholly incidental upon family members who not only bear medical expenses but also assume the role of care-givers. Next, she goes on to speak about how caregiver burden is disproportionately shared within the household. She explains that a woman’s gender role relegates her to the status of a caregiver, often having to make the difficult choice of giving up her career to engage in full-time caregiving.
She goes on to talk about the impact long-term caregiving has on the mental and physical health of care-givers. She then provides insight on the medical aspects of dementia – the approaches taken to diagnose, treat and manage the symptoms and the level of care prescribed. Finally, we discuss in detail the challenges and the roadblocks to providing and seeking dementia care in India.
She asserts that the only way to get rid of the stigma surrounding seeking institutional and professional care, especially in the case of dementia, is to raise awareness about the interventions and educate the public about early detection and diagnosis.
Dementia care must be based on collaborative and community-based models of care. Public awareness, she suggests, is the first step towards creating dementia-friendly and dementia-ready communities.
The podcast discusses the condition of dementia care systems in India through a socio-economic and medical perspective and traces the challenges that lie ahead. This podcast is a must-listen!
Dr. Jayashree Dasgupta, MPhil, PhD, NIMHANS is a clinical psychologist with a specialization in neuropsychology. She is the co-founder of Samvedna Senior Care. They cater to the elderly’s physical and emotional health. Their mission is to provide best in class senior care services for elderly to help them live happy, active and independent lives, in the comfort of their home and community through interactive caregiving.