Bengaluru: Karnataka has officially declared dementia as a public health priority, marking a significant step in addressing the growing concern of cognitive impairment in the state. The announcement was made by Dinesh Gundu Rao, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, during the launch of the Final Draft Karnataka Action Plan for Dementia at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru on Thursday. This initiative was the result of a collaboration between the Dementia India Alliance, NIMHANS, and the Department of Health and Family Welfare.
The comprehensive action plan outlines several key strategies to address dementia-related challenges in the state, including the establishment of a dementia registry and the provision of home-based caregiver assistance for individuals living with dementia.
Dr Pratima Murthy, Director and Senior Professor of Psychiatry at Nimhans emphasized the importance of acknowledging dementia within the public health domain. She highlighted the government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations outlined in the draft action plan in a phased manner. Dr Murthy also stressed the need for comprehensive screening, proposing that individuals aged 60 and above, as well as those with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, respiratory diseases, and mental health disorders, should undergo cognitive impairment assessments.
Dr Murthy further emphasized the significance of preventive measures, stating that around 40% of cases progressing to dementia can be prevented by addressing risk factors. She suggested a common screening approach for mental, neurological, and substance use disorders, highlighting the need for an inclusive dementia support policy and measures to prevent individuals with dementia from getting lost in public spaces.
Currently, only 5% of people with dementia are identified, according to data from the Karnataka Brain Health Initiative, underscoring the importance of early diagnosis and interventions. As part of the initiative, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers will be trained to identify dementia cases.
In a related development, the Mobile Premier League (MPL) launched the Gamers for Dementia Awareness (GFDA) campaign in collaboration with various organizations. The campaign aims to raise awareness about dementia and provide support to those affected by the condition. MPL has established a dedicated website, gameoverdementia.org, offering resources for recognizing, diagnosing, and preventing dementia. The initiative includes youth awareness programs and offline events for the elderly. MPL Foundation will also partner with gamers to promote dementia awareness through a five-point pledge, including engaging with seniors and encouraging cognitive stimulation through online gaming.
Doctors have also witnessed an upsurge in ‘pseudo-dementia’ among younger individuals due to stress, multitasking, and heavy workloads. Unlike dementia, this condition isn’t progressive or brain-degenerative. Symptoms include forgetfulness, poor concentration, and depression. Management involves conscious focus, addressing depression, and therapy. Awareness and information can help prevent and manage this concerning trend.
Dementia, a general term for a decline in cognitive ability affecting memory, thinking, and social skills, is a growing concern globally. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, contributing to 60-80% of cases. While there is currently no cure for dementia, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk. Common signs of dementia include memory loss and difficulty with planning and problem-solving, with age being the most common risk factor for the condition.