Bhimrao Shinde, 72, would remember, in detail, his adolescent years but not what he ate for lunch. Last week, his wife, Sonabai, took him to Memory Clinic where he was diagnosed with dementia.
On March 29, Memory Clinic in Dharavi, an initiative by Shield Foundation, a non-profit, and Sion Hospital doctors began screening tests to identify dementia in the elderly.
Dementia, prevalent among the old, is a neurological condition that results in problems of memory, reasoning and understanding. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. In most cases, dementia is a degenerative disorder, meaning it worsens over time and can only be managed, not cured.
To mark World Health Day on Saturday, the clinic will distribute senior citizen cards to help patients get benefits at civic hospitals. This year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified 'ageing and health' as the theme.
“Two years ago, Bhimrao started forgetting small things, but we did not pay too much attention to it,” said Sonabai.
Doctors said one in 100 people between 65 and 70 years suffer from dementia. The risk doubles every five years and 16% of population aged between 85 and 90 may have some form of dementia, said Dr Nilesh Shah from Sion Hospital.
According to WHO, the senior citizen population in India will grow from 77 million (7.4% of the total population) in 2001 to 300 million (17%) by 2050.
“Often signs of dementia are ignored and accepted as part of the ageing process,” said Swati Ingole, founder, Shield Foundation. Doctors at Memory Clinic conduct a Mini Mental State Examination, which looks at 30 aspects and has questions related to cognition and memory such as what a patient has eaten that day or what his or her name is. If a patient scores less than 24, he is referred for further tests.
“About 15 % cases are treatable if detected early, but patients come in only at late stages. Old people are brought in only when they have problems recognising their children or begin to soil their clothes,” said Dr Sajid Ali Khan, consultant psychiatrist, Kohinoor Hospital. Raees Khan, for example, admitted his wife, Nazbunnisa, soon after she began forgetting simple things. “Once the medication started, she felt much better. The medication is life-long, but now she leads a normal life,” said Khan.