Hyderabad: The mean age of presentation of dementia in India is 66 years of age and the mortality risk is found to be 2.3 times more in those patients and 2.65 times more in post-stroke dementia patients.
Death due to dementia is now the fifth largest cause of death in the elderly population, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Neurology.
An estimated 4.1 million people suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s as per the Dementia India report published by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India.
Dr Preeti Swaroop, member of the Hyderabad Psychiatrist Association and rehabilitation expert, explained, “The prevalence of dementia will increase three times by 2030. Presently what is being evaluated in the various centres is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Dr Swaroop said short-term memory loss was not taken seriously in India. “It is considered to be a part of the ageing process. If it is identified early, there are many therapies now available to improve memory functioning. Simple tasks have to be repeated to improve functioning and a few changes in lifestyle will help to deal with the problem,” she said.
Recurrent short term memory losses must not be ignored as it culminates into mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Mild Cognitive Impairment is the transition stage between impairment and development of the disease. Degeneration is very slow and hence experts state that there is valuable time which will help to restore, if not reverse, what is lost.
Dr CH. Mohan Rao, consultant neurophysician at Apollo Hospitals, said awareness about both dementia and Alzheimer’s was very limited. In the last one decade, people are found to be talking to family physicians about their memory problems.
“These are not elderly citizens but those who are between 45 and 50 years. People who are asking these questions are those who have been suffering from hypertension, diabetes and other co-morbid conditions. Dementia is not a standalone problem. It is found in people who have other conditions due to the aging process,” Dr Mohan Rao said.
With trauma, accidents and stroke cases seeing a rise, the condition of dementia is also being seen in these patients. Those who have been into substance abuse, alcoholics and other addiction disorders are also the groups where the problem of dementia is persistent.
Rehabilitation centres evaluate these target groups for their memory function. An online questionnaire has been prepared by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India to help doctors evaluate these conditions. This gives them a scale of the memory function and helps them look at the intervention options.
Apart from medication which is used to prevent the disease, there are also a range of games that have been developed which will help in improving cognitive functioning skills. The tasks of daily life are the most important and the first and foremost priority is to ensure that these are carried out as required.