The 2018 WHO dementia plan focuses on the urgent need for a multi-phased approach and a multi-sectoral policy response to address the needs of people with dementia, their carers and families. The rapid increase in ageing population across countries requires national strategies to deal with age-related diseases — dementia care is becoming a significant issue.
Data from many parts of the world reveals age as a risk factor for dementia — though the debilitating condition, is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Dementia is a form of cognitive impairment that affects memory and other cognitive abilities and significantly interferes with a person’s ability to perform daily activities. According to the WHO, it affects 50 million people worldwide; a number that is projected to increase to 82 million by 2030 and 152 million by 2050. According to some estimates, one person gets affected by dementia every three seconds.
Studies have revealed how the stigma attached to the disease leads to the social isolation of patients, their families and careers. Research has thrown light on the deterioration in the quality of their lives. There is an urgent need to treat dementia as a public health concern by raising awareness on all aspects of the disease including risk reduction, diagnosis, treatment, research, care and support for patients and care givers. The efforts of the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) and the initiatives of the Ministry of Health, based on directives of the WHO’s Global Dementia Action Plan, are directed towards that end.
Studies that draw on interactions with people affected by dementia, their families, and caregivers indicate that several of the needs of such people — social, economic or those related to health — remain unfulfilled. For instance, leave concessions at work, adaptable housing environments, adequate diagnostic facilities, treatment options,
care provisions and risk reduction measures for people with dementia are not in place. Many require psychological support, biomedical facilities, appropriate medications, counselling services and end of life care. But these are not available. The complexity of needs cutting across health, economic and social sector requires attention and policy responses.
Over a year ago, the World Health Assembly in Geneva adopted the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025. India endorsed the plan, confirming its commitment to improving the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families. The country’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals — especially with respect to Goal 3 that deals with good health and well being — and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should push it into formulating a strategy to deal with this debilitating condition. Such a plan should incorporate public awareness campaigns and research.
As the percentage of aged people in the country increases, improving the lives of people with dementia and their families and carers must become a national priority. These programmes could be aligned with existing policies and care models.