Bridging the gap with innovation, ET HealthWorld

By Dr. Reema Nadig

“Innovation in dementia care is not just about technology; “It is about changing the way we understand, support and empower people living with dementia and their carers.”

In a country as large and diverse as India, the challenges posed by dementia are increasing, impacting the well-being of our aging population. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is a progressive neurological disorder that impairs memory, cognitive functions, and behavior. It is a condition that not only affects the individual but also places a significant burden on their families. As a senior care expert, I find it imperative to shed light on this issue and discuss innovations and opportunities that can help India combat this serious concern.

Dementia: the scope of the problem
India has recently overtaken China to become the world’s most populous country. Of this huge population, about 104 million individuals, or 8.6%, are 60 years of age or older. The aging trend is expected to continue due to the increasing life expectancy that characterizes developing countries such as India. The prevalence of dementia in India ranges from 1% to 10%, influenced by the diverse community background and systemic disparities in the country. Furthermore, cultural factors may lead to underreporting of symptoms, even when objective evidence exists. A shocking statistic is that the prevalence of dementia doubles every five years after the age of 65. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 4.1 million people are currently living with dementia in India, a number that is projected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. When considering these factors.

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However, the worrying aspect is that ignorance about dementia is prevalent not only in rural parts of India, but also in urban India. So overall, the problem remains the same across the country due to lack of awareness and acceptance of dementia as a medical condition. But why is there a lack of awareness about dementia as it is a medical condition that requires medical attention and intervention just like diabetes or high blood pressure?

Treatment Barrier: Stigma
In India, dementia often carries a heavy social stigma, causing many individuals and their families to avoid seeking treatment. Sadly, this stigma is deeply rooted in misconceptions about dementia.

It is not uncommon for people to think of it as mere forgetfulness or a natural consequence of aging rather than recognizing it as a true neurological condition. This misunderstanding creates a reluctance to acknowledge the problem and seek professional help.

Fear of being labeled or ostracized by their communities often prevents individuals from addressing dementia, creating a significant barrier to timely intervention and care. Breaking down these misconceptions and reducing the social stigma associated with dementia is vital to ensuring that affected individuals get the support and treatment they really need.

World Alzheimer’s Day: A global call for awareness
Each year, September 21 is observed as World Alzheimer’s Day, a global initiative to raise awareness and tackle the stigma associated with dementia, including Alzheimer’s. The day serves as a reminder that millions of people around the world are battling this debilitating disease, and calls for international cooperation in finding a cure and providing support to those affected.

As an expert in geriatric medicine, I have seen how India’s healthcare system is adapting to address the increasing prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Our healthcare system is facing a huge challenge and innovative solutions are necessary to meet these challenges.

Innovative solutions are the need of the hour
I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of India’s health care system in response to the increasing prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in our aging population. It is very clear that innovative solutions are needed to bridge the gap in dementia care and address the diagnosis, treatment and acceptance surrounding it.

  • There is a clear need for initiatives that provide diagnostic and staging services for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Such specialized clinics enable families to access timely screening, assessment and intervention. These focused dementia care units must be friendly to patients and understand their needs.

  • An encouraging development is the availability of affordable medicines. Local pharmaceutical companies have begun producing generic versions of essential dementia drugs, making treatment more accessible, especially to those who previously could not afford it.

  • Moving away from institutionalization, organizations are adopting community-based care models. These programs provide home support, medical and respite care, reducing the financial burden on families and allowing individuals with dementia to live in their familiar surroundings.

  • The advent of telemedicine has been revolutionary. Patients can now consult dementia specialists from the comfort of their homes, improving the overall quality of care. Digital tools such as mobile apps and cognitive assessments help caregivers monitor the progress of dementia and make informed decisions.

In the face of the growing dementia crisis, India’s healthcare system is making commendable progress towards inclusivity and accessibility. These efforts not only enhance the quality of life of the affected people, but also demonstrate the country’s commitment to adaptation and innovation. As we move forward, the continued emphasis on these innovative solutions will ensure a compassionate, efficient and holistic approach to dementia care for all.

Advancing dementia care in India
Although we have seen commendable progress in dementia care, significant challenges remain. The journey towards greater awareness and eradication of stigma, especially in deprived rural areas, is still ongoing. To maximize the potential of these innovative solutions, it is essential to equip both health care professionals and caregivers with comprehensive training. This empowers them to take full advantage of technological advances in dementia care.

The dementia care landscape in India, though changing, requires sustained efforts. Prioritizing education, raising awareness and fostering a culture of empathy can ensure that people living with dementia are treated with respect and care during their final years. The road ahead may be difficult, but with unwavering commitment and continued innovation, we can create a promising future for dementia patients and their loved ones.

Dr. Reema Nadig, Co-Founder and Group Medical Director, Kites Senior Care

(Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. will not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organization, directly or indirectly.)

  • Published on September 25, 2023 at 06:28 am IST

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