Dementia refers to a group of progressive or chronic diseases characterized by a gradual decline in mental abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Due to the social, physical, psychological and financial consequences associated with dementia, it can be overwhelming for the patients and the caregivers alike. Moreover, the lack of awareness regarding this disease often results in delayed medical intervention, and this is particularly the case in developing countries.
Following is a list of 15 facts about dementia that are unusual and shocking:
- Dementia is widespread and expected to rise
In 2015, a staggering 47 million people had dementia worldwide. This number is expected to rise to approximately 75 million by 2030 and 132 million by 2050; which is an increase of 281%.
- Cases of dementia per annum
Approximately 9.9 million people are diagnosed with dementia each year. This means that a new dementia case surfaces every 3 seconds.
- Deaths due to dementia
Since the turn of the century, deaths by heart diseases have decreased by almost 14%. But, on the other hand, deaths by Alzheimer’s have risen by 89%.
The number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease is higher compared to deaths caused by breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Moreover, 1 in 3 elderly people die because of some form of dementia.
- Prevalence over age
A large proportion of individuals with dementia are over the age of 65 but it can also affect individuals below this age bracket. Dementia is not a normal part of aging and it’s probability increases with age. Some 40,000 people under the age of 65 in the UK b have dementia.
- Dementia in the developing nations
Dementia is a worldwide issue most prevalent in the developing countries. 60% cases of dementia are found in low to middle income countries, primarily due to lack of awareness and resources. In the next 20 years, we may see the largest increase in dementia cases in China, India and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Umbrella term
Dementia is not a disease itself; it is an umbrella term for a broad number of diseases all categorized by similar symptoms that include memory loss, disorientation, hallucinations and communication difficulties.
- Financial impact
The economic impact of dementia in the UK is predicted to double from 26 billion pounds to 55 billion pounds by 2040. In the US, the estimated cost of dementia in 2015 was nearly 818 billion dollars and the figures are expected to rise exponentially in the coming years.
- Dementia caregivers
People with dementia require round the clock care and attention. So, what should caregiver know about dementia patient while taking care off? These caregivers can also be family members who aren’t appropriately trained to deal with the physical and emotional strain that comes with the job.
In addition to financial issues, it can be overwhelming for a caregiver to see a loved one waning before their eyes. Consequently, 35% of dementia caregivers are reported to develop health issues compared to 19% of caregivers who look after seniors without dementia.
People with dementia often have comorbidities, i.e. secondary or additional diseases, such as fractures due to a fall, diabetes, urinary tract infections, chest infections and/ or depression. Only 12% dementia patients have no comorbidities, 40% have up to two other health issues while the remaining 48% have three or more health conditions.
- Behavioral changes
In addition to the obvious symptoms of dementia i.e. memory loss and disorientation, patients can also undergo drastic behavioral alterations resulting in aggression and severe mood swings.
- Hospital statistics
1 in 4 beds in the hospital are occupied by dementia patients who are over the age of 65. However, 20% of these occupants were admitted due to conditions that were preventable.
- Home-care services
Home-care services refer to supportive care by a medical professional or by professional caregivers at home. People living with dementia make up to 60% of the demographics receiving home care services.
In England and Wales, the number of dementia patients who require palliative care is projected to increase by four times by the year 2040.
- Care homes
In 2013, 70% residents of care homes had dementia. This percentage increased from 56% in 2002.
- Living with dementia
While there is no cure for dementia, early diagnosis can improve the quality of life for the patients. They can also live independently in their own homes until the symptoms start causing significant difficulties in performing daily activities.
Moreover, drugs are now available to alleviate some of the symptoms of the condition and frequent scientific breakthroughs are being made.
- Inadequate research funding
From the year 2012 to 2015, the research funding for dementia by the UK government has doubled to over 60 million pounds per annum, but the research is still underfunded. Dementia research receives only 3% of the government’s medical research budget and, after adding the charitable investments, it is still 7 times lower than cancer research budget.
Due to these disturbing figures, it has become imperative to raise awareness regarding this heath issue. We need to educate more people about the onset of this condition, improve the publics’ attitude and perception towards people with dementia, invest in medical and social healthcare services for better treatment and care, and promote research and innovation in the field.