It makes sense that with an aging baby boomer population the effects of aging will also increase over the coming decades. So it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) expects cases of people living with dementia to triple worldwide by 2050.
Worldwide, nearly 35.6 million people live with dementia currently. In its first substantial report on the issue: Dementia: a public health priority, WHO predicts that number will double by 2030 to 65.7 million and more than triple by 2050 to 115.4 million. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but the term covers a a number of progressive disorders that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities.
With only eight countries worldwide with national programmes in place to address dementia, the report highlights that action needs to be taken now to improve early diagnosis, raise awareness and provide better care and support to the caregivers of patients. Dr Oleg Chestnov of WHO comments:
“We need to increase our capacity to detect dementia early and to provide the necessary health and social care. Much can be done to decrease the burden of dementia…Health-care workers are often not adequately trained to recognize dementia.”
One only wonders what other conditions associated with old age will also need addressing in the near future – and how much will it all cost our health systems? One doesn’t have to look much past the comments on online paper The Slatest to see that this news has people quickly providing euthanasia as a ‘solution’ to the problem. That points to the fact that we will be rubbing shoulders with this issue more and more. However, one less cynical commenter does point out that medical advances may keep pace with the growing elderly population. Here’s hoping.
It is promising that WHO has already identified that a lack of proper diagnosis is currently one of the biggest obstacles to better dementia treatment – something that can be easily changed. Even in rich countries more than half of dementia cases are overlooked until the disease has reached a late stage. It seems we need to stop forgetting about this issue (no pun intended), and put some solid programmes in place to deal with it sooner rather than later.