Trained attendants and respite care for dementia: Sharing suggestions for volunteers from India

Yesterday, I shared my observations related to availability and quality of trained attendants and respite care for dementia in India (Trained Attendants and Respite Care for dementia: Observations from India); today, I am setting down some thoughts on what concerned agencies and volunteers can do right away to make a difference in a way that can scale up fast. I’m no policy expert, but hey, desperate people get wild ideas, and here are mine.

For those trying to help caregivers, the pathetic state of available support is disheartening. Day after day, one is forced to break the sad news to overwhelmed caregivers and I’ve seen many concerned persons getting distressed that they cannot help the way the callers (or email-writers) obviously expect them to do. I’ve felt down myself, both as a caregiver and a volunteer.

Some volunteers begin considering setting up agencies or respite care homes themselves. They redirect energy, time, and resources into trying to set up whatever is needed to train a batch of attendants, or start planning a specialized dementia care home. Often, many of these persons realize midway this is just so much work, and doing this means they cannot do anything else. They feel they are spending all their energy for something that may benefit at most 10 or 20 families, and wonder whether this is more important than what they were doing earlier. Also, being committed to a cause and passionate about it does not naturally equip one to run a full-fledged establishment for fulltime care. These volunteers/ organizations then give up, or start something that fizzles out, having lost valuable time and energy (and sometimes goodwill) along the way.

Here is what I think:

Ideally, there would be this huge nodal body that sets up gazillions of agencies that supply excellent trained attendants at very affordable prices, and also creates heaps of day cares and respite cares so that no dementia patient remains unsupported.

But that does not seem feasible, at least in the short run 🙂

We need help now. We need something to start providing relief soon, in a widespread way. We cannot depend solely on the actions of existing dementia care volunteers, already a small and over-stretched community. In addition to increasing the community of persons committed to help, we must get others interested in creating appropriate facilities.

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Trained attendants and respite care for dementia: Observations from India

I keep getting queries because of my site Dementia Care Notes, and the most frequently asked questions by my site visitors are related to getting trained attendants for dementia home care, or getting information on old age homes where dementia patients can be admitted.

My website already contains information on these, but I think people want to hope, and when they are desperate, they want a personal and direct answer. Much of my correspondence time goes in personalized replies to such queries, but I thought I’d put together a sort of summary answer here, anyway.

First, old age homes for dementia patients.

statistics for dementia facilities in India

As per the Dementia India Report 2010, there are an estimated 37 lakh (3.7 million) dementia patients in India and 6 respite care facilities (facilities for fulltime stay, short term or long term) that are specialized for dementia patients. I’ve summarized some data alongside, and you can see the contact information for all six at my website’s resource page here: Dementia Caregiver Resources across India. Add to it the day care facilities, the optimistic estimate of capacity oriented for care suitable for dementia patients is 400.

Four hundred, across India, a nation where the number of estimated patients is 3.7 million.

A massive gap, indeed.

Below are some observations I have to add on this topic–these are, of course, my observations, not an authoritative report, but they are based on multiple data points, and I welcome comments that may improve this understanding.

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Where dementia caregivers in India need help

Because time and energy are limited, because there is so much that can be done, because I need to prioritize (or risk going crazy), I decided to use a simple, single question survey to gather data from dementia caregivers in India/ people involved with them. I put up the survey in the second week of February.

I am grateful to every caregiver/ friend of care giver who took time to share their thoughts or forward the link/ e-mail to someone else who may have been interested.

In this post I am analysing the first batch of responses received: the 17 responses I received up to March 14, 2011.

First, about the questionnaire (given below). My simple, single question survey collected no personal data, but also did not allow a person to respond twice. Respondents could choose as many options as they wanted. I expected them to tick any options they considered helpful, and if someone ticked all options, it would be because that person genuinely felt all the choices offered were helpful.

The analysis below is of the 17 responses received up to March 14, 2011. These responses had trickled one at a time, and apparently came from a scattered profile of individuals who had somehow heard of the survey. I started this analysis when responses tapered down. Then, after doing this analysis, when I checked to see whether a couple more responses had trickled in, I was surprised to see that there had been a spurt of responses on March 15 and 16. I’m doing this post to capture the insights so far, and if any additional responses I get later provide any additional insight, I will add another post later.  

So far, for this first batch of 17 responses, the counts fell in two clear categories.

Most respondents chose the following options:

  • Availability of trained attendant (14)
  • Training programs for caregiving skills (12)
  • Home nursing services (12)

And fewer chose these other three options:

  • Support group meetings (6)
  • Caregiving books/ videos (6)
  • Day care/ respite care (7)

In the “others”, I received the following three comments:

  • And more information available in public which helps you understand that dementia is an illness not something that you need to hide away!
  • Professionally Trained Nurses who do not take the other inmates of the house for a ride.
  • knowledge of potential volunteers for caregiving

So, folks, that is the raw data: interpret it as you will. Below is my impression.
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