Pandit was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease five years ago. According to a study conducted in the metropolis, as many as 1.6% of citizens above the age of 65 suffer from the disease. In Western countries, where the life expectancy is higher, as much as eight to 10% of the population suffers from Alzheimer's which is the most common form of dementia in people over 65 years of age.
The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks. In Alzheimer's disease, as in other types of dementia, increasing numbers of brain cells deteriorate and die.
"It is a disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities," said Dr Roop Gursahani, neurologist, Hinduja Hospital. She sees two to three new patients suffering from the disease every month.
"Though there is no cure, certain drugs can slow the deterioration down. The family members must maintain the daily routine of the patient," said Dr Gursahani. That is where the support group for Alzheimer's patients, being run at the Holy Family Hospital, Bandra, comes in.
Started by the Greater Mumbai chapter of the Alzheimer's and Related Disorder Society of India (ARDSI) and Silver Innings Foundation, the group meets from 4 pm to 5 pm on the last Saturday of every month. A clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, social workers and family members of patients make up a gathering.
"The group caters to people from Andheri to Mahim," said Sailesh Mishra, founder-president of Silver Innings. "But, we get visitors from as far as Thane as there is no support group in that area. We also provide help to other people interested in starting support groups."
However, not many come forward to discuss Alzheimer's in the open. "That is why we decided to include home visits to counsel family members of a patient," he said.
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