‘More Indian Women Suffer From Dementia Than Men'
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23 September 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Dementia affects more women in India than men a trend that counters recent global studies, which claim males are more prone to suffering from this brain destroying condition.
According to the India Dementia Report 2010, which was released on Tuesday, of the 36 lakh Indians who suffer from dementia, 21 lakh are women and the rest are men.
Experts say this could be mainly because women in India have better life expectancy than their male counterparts.
The assertions could be true as the Union health ministry’s latest projections show that life expectancy at birth (LEB) of an Indian male is 65.8 as compared to 68.1 in women.
Dementia is characterised by a progressive deterioration in intellect including memory, learning, orientation, language, comprehension and judgement due to disease of the brain. It mainly affects older people; about 2% of cases set in before the age of 65. After this, the prevalence doubles every five years.
In India, one in every 50 households has a dementia patient.
Dr K Jacob Roy, chairman of Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), said awareness of dementia is very low. "Most cases go undiagnosed as people assume that it is just a normal ageing problem. In cases where the diagnosis is made, it is likely to be in moderately advanced stage," he explained.
Lack of trained caregivers remains the biggest problem for treating dementia patients in the country. The care is almost entirely given at home. Most of the primary caregivers are women (75%), and the vast majority of them are co–residents (98%).
Several studies conducted in India have revealed negative impact of dementia ––physical, psychological and economic on caregivers.
According to the World Alzheimer’s report, 40%–75% caregivers had significant psychological illness, resulting from the nature of their work and 15%–32% had clinically diagnosable major depression. Experts say, "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."
According to the India Dementia Report 2010, prolonged stress and physical demands of care giving, coupled with biological vulnerabilities of older caregivers, may increase their risk for serious health complications.
"It is prudent to strengthen home–based care for more than one reason. Greater focus on the households in India is required since they hold the key to the care and support of people suffering from dementia," Dr Kameshwar Rao, professor of neurology at AIIMS, told TOI.
It is estimated that the cost of taking care of a patient with Alzheimer’s is about Rs 43,000 annually, much of which is borne by the families. A landmark report on the global economic impact of dementia, released on Tuesday, says it would exceed 1% of global GDP in 2010, is pegged at $604 billion. If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy. If it were a company, it would be the world’s largest.