Times of India
22 September 2009
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
India Still Doesn’t Have Health Programme For The Elderly
This can come as a shocker for India, which is yet to put in place a health programme for the country’s greying population. The global burden of dementia – disorders of the brain that affect memory and language among the elderly – has been seriously under estimated.
The World Alzheimer’s Report 2009, released on Monday and prepared by King’s College, London said there would be 35 million people worldwide with dementia by 2010. That number is set to almost double every 20 years to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.
What’s worse, almost 60% of people with dementia in 2010 will be from low and middle income countries like India, rising to 70.5% by 2050. This is a 10% increase over the earlier estimate made in 2005 – meaning that the estimates made earlier for India will also increase.
Scientists had earlier said that by 2020, around 10 million Indians above the age of 65 would suffer from dementia. By 2040, the number would increase to around 22 million.
The report said, “The healthcare needs of older people have for too long been under prioritised. This is now changing due in part to the fact that demographic ageing of population is proceeding more rapidly than first anticipated, specially in India, China and Latin America. In the 30 years upto 2020, the oldest sector of the population would have increased by 200% in low and middle income countries compared to 68% in the developed world.”
Going by the new estimates, the report said the percentage increase of the number of people with dementia in the next 20 years will stand at 107% in south Asia, 134% in Latin America and 125% in North America and Middle East.
The report also focused on the impact of dementia – physical, psychological and economic – on caregivers. Statistics cited in the report suggested that 40–75% of caregivers had significant psychological illness as a result of their caregiving and 15–32% had clinically diagnosable major depression. There may also be physical health consequences; strained caregivers have impaired immunity and a higher mortality rate.
“Caring is a full–time job – an average of around eight hours per day for a relative with moderate to severe dementia. In India, over 50% of people with dementia require caregivers to take care of them,” an official said.
Worldwide, the economic cost of dementia has been estimated at $315 billion annually. The total annual costs per person with dementia have been estimated as $1,521 in a low income country, rising to $4,588 in middle income countries and $17,964 in high income countries.
The report recommended that the WHO declare dementia a health priority, and that countries including India develop a plan for dealing with the greater numbers of dementia patients.
The study had earlier made an interesting finding. When compared to China and Latin America, Indian relatives were much less likely to acknowledge that the elders in their households were suffering from memory loss.
When asked, around 90% of relatives in Latin American countries said they did notice a memory problem in their aged parents or grand parents, which could mark the early onset of dementia.
On the other hand, only 25% Indians recognised a memory problem even when it had started affecting normal life of the elderly population in their homes.