'Dementia not included in Mental Health Act'

'Dementia not included in Mental Health Act'

During an interactive session conducted here on Law and Dementia, senior advocate Shiv Kumar said dementia was not specifically mentioned either in the Mental Health Act or the Disability Act. Organised by the Nightingales Centre for Ageing and Alzheimer's, the session was held for care givers of dementia patients here.

None of the private institutions have applied for licence under the Mental Health Act, as it would mean they would have to provide subsidised care and take in patients sent by the government or the court. Currently, these patients are being sent to NIMHANS. "The Mental Health Act is fine but there is a need to include more conditions like dementia," said Shiv Kumar.  He said that in his experience, most patients suffering from dementia refused to acknowledge that they suffered from it. Even medical professionals were hesitant to call dementia a mental illness.

Legal matters

As dementia was not recognised as a mental illness by the law, there were no clear guidelines when it terms of guardianship or what happens to the person's property. Therefore, Shiv Kumar advised the caregivers to immediately sort out the affairs such as bank documents, power of attorney, sale of property and such the moment their loved ones were diagnosed with dementia.

"It is always better to get a dementia patient's affairs in order before dementia degenerates his/her memory," he said.

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