WHO reports that within the next 18 years, the number of people, worldwide, suffering from dementia will likely double to 65.7 million and triple by 2050, due to people living longer. The organization has determined that there are around 35.6 million sufferers today, costing over $600 billion a year for care and treatment.
For the U.S., results from the 2007 Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS), funded by the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, found that about 3.4 million Americans aged 71 years and older — almost 14% — have dementia, and 2.4 million (9.7%) have Alzheimer’s disease. ADAMS was the first population-based study of dementia to include people from all regions of the country.
Dementia is the general term used for the variety of brain afflictions that cause its sufferers not to be able to remember – continually losing their train of thought and experiencing changes in behavior. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which affects up to 70 percent of dementia victims. More than half of this population live in countries of low to medium income.
According to the WHO report, only 20-50 percent of dementia cases are being recognized, even in richer countries, thereby making it evident that better diagnosis is needed. Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s assistant director general of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, would also like to see health and social care added to better detection, as he feels that many healthcare workers are not properly trained to recognize this disease.
Currently, there are eight countries that have programs in place to approach the issues of dementia on a national level. Those countries are Britain, France, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, South Korea, Japan and Australia. Germany and Sweden are providing their citizens with lists of recommendations of how citizens can proceed.
WHO’s report also emphasizes that there is an overall lack of understanding and information, creating fear. Therefore, people resist asking for help. The recommendation is that health care professionals need to:
- help reduce that fear,
- give better care to the victims, and
- provide support for those that care for the dementia sufferer.
In summary, Shekhar Saxena, head of the mental health department at WHO, reports that as people live longer: 1 in 8 people over 65 years of age, and 1 in 2.5 people over the age of 85 will be affected by this disease. Dementia is a disease that cannot be cured but, if dealt with properly, its progress can be slowed.