Scientist found dead: Outreach programmes for mental illness need of hour | delhi news | Hindustan Times
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Scientist found dead: Outreach programmes for mental illness need of hour

Doctors say there are many cases where an elderly patient lives in a psychotic denial of the death of a loved one. And the problem is compounded by several members of the family suffering from some form of mental illness.

delhi Updated: Sep 09, 2017 09:22 IST
Anonna Dutt
A retired scientist with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi was found dead at his house on Thursday. The body was infested with maggots suggesting he died several days ago but his two siblings did not raise any alarm. (HT Photo)
A retired scientist with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi was found dead at his house on Thursday. The body was infested with maggots suggesting he died several days ago but his two siblings did not raise any alarm. (HT Photo)

The sister and brother of the 64-year-old retired scientist, whose decomposing body was found in abandoned quarter, are battling mental problems.

“Both the siblings were brought to our hospital last night. The sister definitely suffers from some paranoid mental illness, most likely schizophrenia. We think the brother too has some form of mental illness,” said Dr Nimesh Desai, director of Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS).

He says that he has been receiving such cases, where the elderly patient lives in a psychotic denial of the death of a loved one. And, the problem is compounded by several members of the family suffering from some form of mental illness – diseases like schizophrenia runs in families – with nobody to care for them.

“There has been an increase in such cases mainly due to urban lifestyle, people living in smaller families and social isolation. This is why outreach programmes become necessary. But, the country still has a long way to go when it comes to comprehensive mental health care,” said Dr Desai.

The national sample survey of 2004 had concluded that the problems of the elderly may increase with the proportion of nuclear families, especially in urban areas, as nuclear families are less able to provide long-term care. Hence, it is important to have social initiatives to take care of the seniors.

Developing social support is important, said Dr AB Dey, head of the geriatrics department at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). “Even if people have a family, what is the guarantee that they will look after the elderly, however, it is still better to have a bad family than none at all,” he said.

“Awareness about the concept of home care -- where a caregiver or the people in the neighbourhood like the grocery shop owner, vegetable vendor, and neighbours help out the elderly – must grow in our society as we all are likely to face these problems when we would turn old. Loneliness is also a big problem in elderly. It is a cause of stress, frustration and depression,” said Dr Dey.

India currently has more than 103 million people over the age of 60, and with 65% of the population under 35, the number will increase to 350 million elderly by 2050.