Dementia isn’t a joke – and people affected by it deserve to be treated with understanding and respect.

Ruchi recalls this story when she came back to her hometown after almost 4 years of staying abroad because of family disputes. She was sitting impatiently throughout the drive back home from the airport and kept fidgeting with her screen enabled toy gifted by her deceased Grandfather. Her impatience was palpable as she could not wait to see her old room, her old garden and most of all her old and lovely ‘Nani-mani’. That’s what she called her grandmother whom she had not seen since last 4 years. The taxi stopped right in front of the gated house and Ruchi saw her old garden fresh and blooming, her old room peeking at her from the window, and out walked her Nani-mani all laughing and smiling with no teeth in her jaw, without the dentures, and hugged Ruchi like she was waiting for her as a child waits for her mother. Like all grandmothers do, she admired the fact that how old Ruchi had grown and asked her a question which left Ruchi and her parents totally flabbergasted. “Where is your husband Richa”?

It would not be shocking to the entrepreneur Ruchi who now owns a company which enables old people to live an independent life, but for a 12-year-old girl that she was at that time, it was confusing and saddening as her Nani-mani could not recall her name, could not recognize her clearly and could not rightly keep up with the existing social norms. Ruchi’s Grandmother could recall only the old events and memories. For it had gotten erased from her recent memories all that could be registered. For her, Nani-mani kept asking about Ruchi’s husband during her entire stay for a month because she could not store any new information.

It is because she was suffering from dementia. A disease mostly affecting in the old age bringing impairment to Memory, Communication and Thinking. It makes memorizing new information very difficult. Patients often become forgetful, show decreased self-care, and have decreasing daily routine functions. They have trouble completing tasks that were once easy, have difficulty solving problems. Show changes in mood or personality; often withdrawing from friends and family. There are Problems with communications either written or spoken, confusion about places, people and events; visual changes and trouble drawing meaning out of images.

Few Stats

Worldwide prevalence of dementia is 5-7%. Most people with dementia live in developing countries (60% in 2001, rising to 71% by 2040)[1].

In India more than 4 million people have some form of dementia. We have the third highest reported cases after China and the US. It’s forecasted to reach almost 7.5 million by the end of 2030.

Causes

There are many causes of Dementia that include:

  • Genetics
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
    • Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
    • Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
    • Frontotemporal Dementia’s (FTD)
    • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (PD)
    • Huntington’s Disease (HD)
  • Cardiovascular diseases – Brain strokes, heart disease, and/or hardening of the blood vessels supplying the brain, Damage from bleeding in the arteries in the brain.
  • Infections also cause dementia. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can destroy brain cells and dementia can result—usually in the later stages of severe infections. E.g. Creutzfeldt-Jackob Disease (CJD). Dementia associated with HIV/AIDS
  • Dementia can also result from a chemical imbalance in the body caused by toxins, Drug abuse improper nutrition, or other biological conditions, such as metabolic disorders.
  • Serious injuries to the head and concussions can be other causes of dementia.

There are protective factors as well which help to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. These factors are:

  • Not smoking or to quit Smoking -Smoking affects blood circulation to the brain. Also causes cancer and heart disease and in turn dementia
  • Exercising regularly-Countless benefits which act through increasing blood and nutrition flow to the brain
  • Mind stimulation -strengthen thinking ability: play games like Sudoku, learn new instruments, newer language, learn cooking
  • Eating healthy ‐ Green leafy vegetables, beans berries, fish, chicken, olive oil, whole grains
    Avoid Red meat, sugary and cheesy foods, butter, fast and fried foods.

There are different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s Dementia is the most common.
The treatment options for dementia focus on Stopping the progress of the disease. Improving memory, therapy to conserve the existing skills and develop newer ones, teaching self-care skills and teaching care-takers ways to provide maximum support.

Organizations in India

There are also a number of organizations in India which work for patients with dementia

This World Dementia Day, we invite you to join hands with us in making Our Old ones’ lives better and show them that we care; because we haven’t forgotten their efforts to raise us to be Responsible…

Reference: Ferri CP, Prince M, Brayne C, Brodaty H, Fratiglioni L, Ganguli M, et al. Global prevalence of dementia: A Delphi consensus study. Lancet 2005;366:2112-7.

Resources: