Give Hope….Save Lives!!!!

October, 2020

Dear Friends
After publishing the last issue of Samhita, I had a chat with the Founder of the Dementia Village that I wrote about. As always, he had tons of information and insights to share but the following legal questions he raised were very pertinent as well as disturbing, considering that Dementia patients are mentally unsound :

1.The current labour laws in India permit only 8 hours duty for a caretaker. However in the case of a dementia caregiver, changing them every 8 hours poses different problems since the patient would have got adjusted to one of them and would find it difficult to accept that there is a different person coming in shifts. Looks simple to us but with memory loss and other behavioural problems patients get disturbed even more. Adjustment issues arise for the caregivers as well. The law needs to be modified.

2.How to take a dementia patient’s signature for drawing his pension or operating his bank account ? The law does not recognise the signature or consent of a mentally unsound person. Unless there is a joint holder, operation becomes difficult in a dementia case which is generally brushed aside as normal age related senility with no advance precaution taken.

3.How to protect the property and other assets of a dementia patient from being misused by devious relatives ? Due to unsound mind and loss of memory the patients are unable to take their own decisions and property can get into fraudulent hands. This is true during their lifetime and also thereafter, especially in the absence of a will.

All the above concerns are practical, real and thought-provoking calling for some advocacy and attention of the legislators to the plight of dementia patients and more importantly caregivers. Instead of waiting for the numbers to grow and worsen, action must be taken. Perhaps civil society, caregivers and other ecosystem stakeholders must take up these issues. Just like in other areas such as cancer where the awareness is growing on account of heightened activity by NGOs and support groups working in this space.

Talking of cancer, I cannot but highlight that October is dedicated for Breast Cancer (BC) awareness. With BC being on the rise, there are programmes galore but unfortunately most women are not interested in attending until they are actually affected. The 2020 theme is “Give Hope. Save Lives”. I would say an early detection is the way to save lives because BC is the best form of cancer to get. Largely curable and we are able to get back to normal lives – even better lives post cancer, provided we make the right changes in Eating Right, Breathing Right and Thinking Right. This week I had the opportunity to share my life experiences as a BC Victor – at Rotary and Sanjeevani – Life Beyond Cancer’s panel discussion (a Mumbai based Trust). Ruby Ahluwalia, a senior bureaucrat and BC Victor herself is the founder of this Trust that is doing incredible service to society since 2012 through their varied programmes. Present across the country, Sanjeevani is well networked with hospitals, doctors, caregivers, volunteers, interns, employees, social workers, colleges etc. Leveraging technology, they are able to reach out to the remotest part of the country and deliver hope to the underprivileged cancer patients and families. Do visit to find out what a person with a vision and a heart can do !

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