When 40-year-old Julie Jacob (name changed) realised it was dangerous to let her father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease stay alone in his two-bedroom apartment at Vishrantwadi – he would turn on the gas or leave the water tap running – she and her husband brought him to their home at Nagar Road.
The situation, however, worsened as Julie’s father used to wake up at odd hours and walk out of the house. “One day, we thought he went for a stroll and was missing for two days. It was only after a frantic search, police complaint and networking via social media that we could locate him,” Julie says, hoping against hope that just like children are sent to a creche, she could send her own father to an adult day care centre.
“Most centres are residential facilities and I do not feel like sending my father in an old age home,” Julie says. For Julie and many others like her, Chaitanya mental health centre in the city has decided to launch a day care facility for persons with Alzheimer’s disease, the first such initiative in the city. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia which is a a progressive brain dysfunction that affects memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.
September 21 is observed worldwide as Alzheimer’s Day. According to Rony George, founder and director at Chaitanya Mental health care centre, every three seconds, one person develops Alzheimer’s. While a residential facility for 40 persons suffering from Alzheimer’s/dementia has been operational for five years, there has been an increasing need for setting up a day care centre.
Many families who have their loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are extremely reluctant to place them in a long-term care facility due to social stigma, George says, adding that dementia was irreversible.
“Everyday activities like walking, eating, going to the bathroom and talking become harder. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. At the day care facility, what we can do is minimise the impact, bring down risk factors and organise group therapy, reminiscence therapy sessions, a visit to a mall or at the park and engage them in activities,” George said.
“We even have a bus shuttle that will ensure that patients are taken from certain pick-up points close to their homes in the city. At the end of the day, the bus will also drop them at the same points so their relatives can take them home,” George says, adding that a nominal fee will be charged for the facility. The theme for World Alzheimer’s Month 2016 is ‘Remember Me’, where people are being encouraged to learn to spot the signs of dementia, but also not to forget about loved ones who are living with dementia, or those who may have passed away.
Dr Rajas Deshpande, director of neurology at Ruby Hall Clinic, says World Alzheimer’s Day provides a sobering reminder about the mounting toll of this illness. The numbers are simply staggering. A recent report found that the number of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia has reached 46.8 million worldwide, a number that may double every 20 years. In India alone, more than 4 million people are diagnosed with some form of Alzheimer’s.