Dementia is one of the most common degenerative disorders in the world, which is mainly prevalent among the elderly. Such is its pervasiveness that you are likely to know someone who struggles with it.
Dementia is the umbrella term for conditions leading to the decline of mental abilities, which are severe enough to hamper activities in everyday life.
The symptoms of dementia are the gradual decrease in cognitive abilities, emotional problems, speech and language troubles, and a decrease in motivation. Though a person’s consciousness is usually unaffected, it is undoubtedly disabling for the diagnosed person, and often devastating for caregivers and families.
According to a WHO report in 2015, it was estimated that 47.5 million people were living with dementia across the world.
It’s said that one in 14 people over 65 has some form of dementia. Even more disheartening is that the risk of getting dementia doubles with the addition of every five years after 65.
Since no cure has been found thus far, the primary importance is to improve the patient’s quality of life, and to reduce the overwhelming levels of stress for caregivers. This is done by support groups and dementia-friendly communities across the world.
Echoing Healthy Ageing (EHA) was founded in 2012 by Amrita Patil Pimpale in Mumbai to help train caregivers and professionals working with geriatric patients who suffer from dementia.
An engineer with a management degree, Amrita had no experience in the field. “During Masters in the UK, I worked as a project manager under a care improvement home that got me interested in geriatric care and dementia,” says Amrita.
On interacting with many patients, Amrita began to realise her grandmother’s condition had a striking resemblance to those who suffered with dementia. And on further investigation, her suspicions were proven true.
“But there was nothing any of us could do. Since it was a time when dementia wasn’t very well recognized, she never had the advantage of a diagnosis”, she recalls.
This pushed Amrita to researching dementia care.
Realising how neglected patients in India were, Amrita decided to move back to Mumbai and start her own venture that tackled the issue.
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“For the first year, it was just me who was moving about raising awareness among people over dementia care, which I ended up finding was quite limited. Soon, EHA was approached by UnLtd India that quite literally raised the mast for the organisation’s sail”, she remembers.
The organisation’s workforce includes a small team comprising of well-trained social workers and a clinical psychiatric consultant who have trained over 1000 caregivers and professionals.
They have also worked with many hospitals where training programmes and workshops were conducted for nurses.
Offering counselling for the family caregivers, EHA helps them get a clear sense of what the future could be like for the patient and what they need to prepare for. They also offer care courses for family members or the recruited caregiver.
“While constant caregiving can at times get overwhelming, our trained professionals come in and spend time with the patient a few times a week, engaging the patient in art, music or reminiscence therapies that could reduce anxieties of the patients; giving the primary carer a few hours’ respite,” Amrita explains.
EHA has also partnered with Holy Family hospital in Bandra where the support-group meets for the family members and caregivers are organised every month.
Currently working as consultants with 2 care homes in the city, EHA has also partnered with a rehabilitation centre where they can lend their technical knowledge and assistance towards caring for the elderly.
With the month of September being commemorated as world Alzheimer’s month, EHA is on a mission of creating 500 dementia champions who could raise awareness over dementia care practices and help create a dementia friendly community.
EHA has started organising weekend workshops for family caregivers with the hope of making India more inclusive for dementia patients and their caregivers.
To know more about the #500dementiachampions project, you can reach out to EHA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 9167613665.