Echoing Healthy Aging (Dementia care)

In 2008, Amrita went to work for a UK-based care home company as their project manager. The company had a chain of care homes, they needed to improve their services and had employed the consultants that Amrita worked for, to give them advice.  The project changed the course of Amrita’s life.

While interacting with persons with dementia, Amrita realized that her grandmother, who had died a few years ago, had displayed similar symptoms. She called her father, a doctor in Mumbai, and asked if her grandmother had indeed been affected by dementia. Her father validated her hunch, but also explained that it was a time when dementia was not recognized so she had not had the advantage of a diagnosis.

Amrita, who had a management degree, enrolled in a university program in the UK that would teach her more about dementia, through close observation, to understand what a person with dementia is going through.

In 2012, she returned to Mumbai and started ` Echoing  Healthy Aging’, to focus on dementia care. Awareness of dementia was yet limited – they put in a great deal of effort to create awareness in colleges, libraries, and all kinds of public spaces. Dementia is a medical condition with multiple symptoms. It is progressive and may be caused by any of a number of medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or brain injuries.  Dementia symptoms include loss of mental ability and memory. Some older people are more at risk of developing dementia. People are living longer, Amrita says, but dementia is not a part of the natural process of aging. There are people below 60 who show symptoms of dementia – but if the treatment is in place, dementia can be managed.

Very often the neurologist or psychiatrist refers the patient and the patient’s family to Amrita. She says that for many, support is required – to come out of denial and accept what is happening to their loved family member, most often the spouse or a parent. Dementia affects every individual differently, and the patient’s personality is a dominant factor in determining how it will change the person.

An Echoing consultation can help the family caregiver get a clear sense of what the future could be like for the patient and what they need to prepare for. There are care-giving tips and techniques, and how to best manage anxieties of the patient. There are care courses for family members or the recruited caregiver. Constant caregiving can get overwhelming so Echoing has trained professionals who can come in and spend time with the patient a few times a week, engaging the patient in art, music or reminiscence therapies that could reduce anxieties of the patients and give the primary carer a few hours’ respite.

Echoing has trained a few caregivers who can be recruited. They have also developed the role of dementia care companions – they are trained social worker-psychologists who visit dementia patients and spend time with them, engaging them in conversations, in certain cases accompanying them during an outing. They help the patient get a sense of purpose, with the help of dementia friendly activities, talking about the past, and about what they like and do not like.

Routinely, Echoing conducts trainings for professionals – para-medicals, nurses, doctors in hospitals. They have reached out to hospitals, nursing schools, family carers, the psychology departments of Sophia, Wilson and SNDT colleges.

Amrita has been running a caregivers’ support group for a few years, and a more recent one was started at Holy Family in Bandra, under the aegis of Psychiatrist Dr. Charles Pinto. They are still a small team of 10, but they are looking to expand and spreading across Thane and Mumbai.

Contact : (+91) 916761 3665

Address : Echoing Healthy Ageing, 4th floor Candelar,
St.Baptist Road, Near Mt.Mary, Bandra West,
Mumbai 50.

This write-up is based on conversations between Amrita Patil-Pimpale (Founder, Echoing Healthy Aging) and  Devashri Mukherjee (Caregivers Link).


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