Dementia is a subject that most people try to avoid. Just the thought of memory loss – in a loved one, friend, co-worker or, worse yet, ourselves – makes us terribly uncomfortable. Unless we are confronted directly with dementia, we prefer to think of it as “someone else’s problem.”
But dementia – one of the world’s fastest growing diseases – won’t go away and it is fast becoming “everyone’s problem.” A look at the facts and statistics surrounding dementia clearly show that it is a massive issue, possibly a medical catastrophe in the making, with no easy solution.
Indeed, the numbers and statistics surrounding dementia are staggering. Worldwide, there are now an estimated 24 million people living with some form of dementia. Without a major medical breakthrough in the fight against dementia, this number could jump to as many as 84 million who have age-related memory loss by the year 2040.
Although there are a number of forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s is the most common, and most well-known, of the age-related memory loss diseases. Currently, more than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and it is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. About 13% of Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s and half of those over age 85 will develop Alzheimer’s – or a closely related dementia.
Health analysts estimate that in just five years the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s will jump to 7.7 million and by 2050 the number is projected to more than double to 16 million. So why is this disease growing so rapidly?
Simply put, our population is “graying” and our citizens are living much longer than any previous generation. In fact, the fastest growing segment of our population is the over 80 age group, and the odds of becoming demented for the very elderly are much higher.
Prevalence: number of cases in a given year
In 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia – that’s 14.9 per cent of Canadians 65 and older.
By 2031, if nothing changes in Canada, this figure will increase to 1.4 million.
Today, the combined direct (medical) and indirect (lost earnings) costs of dementia total $33 billion per year.
If nothing changes, this number will climb to $293 billion a year by 2040.
Impact of care
Caregiving is a critical issue for people living with dementia and for Canadians in general.
One in five Canadians aged 45 and older provides some form of care to seniors living with long-term health problems.
A quarter of all family caregivers are seniors themselves; a third of them (more than 200,000) are older than 75.
In 2011, family caregivers spent in excess of 444 million unpaid hours looking after someone with cognitive impairment, including dementia.
This figure represents $11 billion in lost income and 227,760 full-time equivalent employees in the workforce.
By 2040, family caregivers will spend a staggering 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year.
The physical and psychological toll on family caregivers is considerable; up to 75 per cent will develop psychological illnesses; 15 to 32 per cent experience depression.
Another aspect to our changing population is how quickly this change has taken place. A person born in 1900 could reasonably hope to reach about the age of 50 – the average life expectancy was just 47 years. However, over the course of the last century a number of factors, such as medical advances, widespread access to health care, improved sanitation and better nutrition have had a tremendous impact on how long we live. Consequently, the average life expectancy for both men and women in the U.S. today is 77 years of age. That’s an incredible increase of 30 years in just one century.
UK dementia statistics
Affects 700,000 people, that’s one in 88 of the population
Financial cost is over £17bn pa, made up mostly of accommodation, lost earnings and unpaid tax
Two thirds (425,000) of people live in the community, one third (244,000) in a care home
Two thirds of people with dementia are women (446k) and one third me (223,000)
Affects 1 in 14 people 65+, 1 in 6 over 80, 1 in 3 over 90
Key risks from assessment are falls and walking about (60% experience walking about)
25 million people, or 42% of the UK population, are affected by dementia through knowing a close friend or family member with the condition. (Source: Alzheimer’s Research Trust / YouGov poll, 2008)
163,000 new cases of dementia occur in England and Wales each year – one every 3.2 minutes.
Dementia is an illness which affects the brain, causing the brain cells to die at a faster rate than normal. It is NOT normal ageing. As a result, the mental abilities of the person with dementia declines.
This leads to failing memory, deterioration of intellectual function and personality changes.
When asked to identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease, 23 per cent of boomers don’t know any of the early signs 50 per cent recognize memory loss as a warning sign, but didn’t mention any other critical symptoms such as changes in behaviour, personality, reasoning and judgment.
Most boomers are familiar with Alzheimer’s common hallmark of not recognizing familiar faces and objects, but less than half are aware of other life-altering changes that occur in the later stages of the disease, including hallucinations and total dependency on others for basic care.
Respondents are unfamiliar with controllable Alzheimer risk factors like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic depression.
The Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA)