New Delhi: The Alzheimer’s and Related disorders Society of India (ARDSI), a non-profit organization, has urged the government to formulate a National Policy on Alzheimer’s disease, which affects a sizeable portion of the country’s population.

India has the third largest community of persons suffering from Dementia in the world at about 45 lakh people. Dementia is a disorder of the brain affecting memory and language skills in elderly people. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of Dementia and about 5-6% of people in the age group of 65-70 years in India suffer from this problem.

“There needs to be a National Dementia Policy with clear and well defined action plan. There is no cure for Dementia right now and people who suffer from this problem need a lot of care. With no or very little social security available to people in India and with nuclear families increasing, care is hard to come by for the elderly," said Dr Manjari Tripathi, Professor of Neurology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and President, ARDSI-Delhi Chapter.

Doctors say degenerative diseases of the brain cannot be reversed. However, with some measures such as symptomatic treatment and effective intervention, it is possible to somewhat delay the progress of the disease. Health experts say it is imperative for the signs to be properly diagnosed and taken care of while they are in their initial phase.

“The National Policy on Alzheimer’s Disease can define how many old age homes should be set up and how the elderly can be taken care of there. There also needs to be government funding for such initiatives which is lacking right now. There can be institutional care set up in the country," said V K Khanna, Executive Director, ARDSI-Delhi Chapter.

“In developed countries, scientific data is being used by the governments to come up with a national plan for Alzheimer’s Disease. India too needs to adopt a similar approach to come up with the action plan," he said.

Another NGO, Agewell Foundation, has recently written to the government, urging the establishment of a National Institute for Aged along the lines of AIIMS for treatment and research in age-related ailments. It has also urged the government to set up a National Fund for the Aged on the lines of the National Fund for Rural Development and provision of free health counsellors for elderly people living alone.

Himanshu Rath, Chairman of Agewell Foundation, said, “Today there is an urgent need to include elderly friendly provisions in all governmental schemes and programs because their life span and their share in national population has increased remarkably. Ignoring their needs and rights and leaving them unaddressed can pose a great threat to our social development agenda. Older persons need to be brought into mainstream of the nation by focusing on their issues and encouraging their active participation in the society."

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