Dementia can be a severely debilitating disease for the patient, as well as for close family members who suddenly find their lives focussed exclusively on taking care of the patient. A Bangalore-based initiative hopes to give some respite to families struggling through such situations, in the form of Day Care Centres for dementia patients.
At 73, life took a twist for Mr. Iyer when his wife was diagnosed with dementia. The condition meant that she could no longer be left alone, and even before he realized it, Mr. Iyer became a full-time carer for his wife. Being housebound, his social life came to a standstill, and this affected him physically as well as emotionally.
Dementia is a condition associated with a decline in memory and/or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Just like in Mr. Iyer’s case, the condition affects not just the Person with Dementia (PwD) but also the caregiver. There is physical ill-health because of the increased burden, social isolation – with the caregiver’s routine revolving around the PwD – and financial hardships owing to the high costs of dementia care, along with the inability to balance a job and full-time care-giving.
This is where the Nightingales Dementia Day Care Centre – an initiative of the Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT) – comes in. Here, the PwD is engaged in a stimulating social environment, caregivers get some much-needed respite.
“We set up Nightingales Dementia Day Care Centres as a response to family members expressing a need for a safe environment for their elders to spend the day when the other members of the family go out to work. Over the past 10 years, since we established the first Centre, we have seen family ties strengthening. Care-giving duties no longer exhaust the family, and we can occupy the PwD with activities, avoiding frustration/irritation by the end of the day. Caregivers are able to keep their jobs and social lives without having to institutionalize their loved one,” says Mr. S Premkumar Raja, Secretary, NMT.
“My wife has been a member of the Nightingales Dementia Day Care Centre at Shanthi Nagar for about two and a half years now. Since then, there has been a lot of progress in her cognition. She now cooperates with us and is not as restless as she used to be. When she is at the centre, I get to work on other chores without having to worry about her. The centre also provides transport facilities, ensuring that they safely pick her up in the morning and drop her back in the evening, making it a lot easier for me,” shares Mr. Iyer, a beneficiary of the day care service.
“Attending a Dementia Day Care Centre improves sleep patterns, increases appetite, and brings down the behaviour disorders associated with the condition. This helps in delaying institutionalization of the PwD. Moreover, these centres give them opportunity for socializing, and building support groups for both the PwD and the carers who society otherwise stigmatizes and isolates,” explains Dr. Radha Murthy, Managing Trustee, NMT.
An ideal day at the centre has a set of therapeutic activities that the care team, family carer, and the PwD plan, design, and review periodically. Full-day and half-day programs are offered—these include orientation therapy, intensive physical exercises, cognitive activities, and social activities.
Ms. Ramani Sundaram, Project Lead, Nightingales Trust – Bagchi Centre for Active Ageing, JP Nagar, observes, “Dementia is a degenerative disease. Hence, the possibilities of improving the memory of a PwD is very low. However, behavior is something we can worked upon. The activities at the centre make them more cooperative and willing to socialize. There is remarkable improvement in their quality of life, impacting their basic and functional activities of daily living. Most importantly, we have been successful in preventing depression in PwDs.”
At present, NMT runs these centres in five locations across Bengaluru: Shanthi Nagar, JP Nagar, Kothanur, Sanjay Nagar, and Malleshwaram. They cater to 50 PwDs everyday, and the Trust hopes to reach 100, to reach out to more families.
The Nightingales Medical Trust is able to run initiatives like this through the assistance provided by community members. Find out how you can help, here.