Dementia is one of the toughest healthcare challenges of today, with over 46 million (46.8) people affected worldwide. This number is estimated to increase to 131.5 million by 2050. Besides affecting the patients, their families and caregivers both emotionally and financially, dementia also has a direct effect on the world’s economy incurring a yearly average cost of $818 billion dollars, a figure that increases every day. It will become a trillion dollar disease by 2018.

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing

Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.

46.8 million people live with dementia

The total number of people with dementia worldwide in 2010 is estimated at 35.6 million. Among them, 58% live in low- and middle-income countries, and this proportion is projected to rise to 71% by 2050.

A new case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds

The total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 7.7 million, implying one new case every four seconds. The number of people with dementia is expected to reach 131.5 million by 2050.

Huge economic impact; US$ 818 billion per year

The high cost of the disease will challenge health systems to deal with the predicted future increase of cases. The costs are estimated at US$ 818 billion per year at present and are set to increase even more quickly than the prevalence.

Caregivers of people with dementia experience high strain

Caring for people with dementia is overwhelming for caregivers. The stressors include physical, emotional and economic. Caregivers will require support from the health, social, financial and legal systems.

Early diagnosis improves the quality of life of people with dementia and their families

The principal goals for dementia care are:

  • Diagnosing cases early
  • Optimizing physical health, cognition, activity and well-being
  • Detecting and treating behavioural and psychological symptoms; and
  • Providing information and long-term support to caregivers.

People with dementia and their families are often discriminated against

People with dementia are frequently denied the basic rights and freedom available to others. For example, physical and chemical restraints are used extensively in aged-care facilities and acute-care settings.

Awareness and advocacy are needed

Improving the awareness and understanding of dementia across all levels of society is needed to decrease discrimination and to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.
More research and evaluation is required
More research is needed to develop new and more effective treatments and to better understand the causes of dementia. Research that identifies the modifiable risk factors of dementia is still scarce.

Dementia is a public health priority

To address this important health priority there are actions that can be taken:

  • Make dementia a public health and social care priority everywhere
  • Improve attitudes, and understanding of dementia
  • Invest in health and social systems to improve care and services for people with dementia and their caregivers; and
  • Increase research on dementia.