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.

47.5 million people live with dementia

The total number of people with dementia worldwide in 2015 is estimated at 47.5 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 1 new case every 4 seconds. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 75.6 million in 2030 and 135.5 million in 2050.

Huge economic impact; US$ 604 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$ 604 billion per year at present and are set to increase even more quickly than the prevalence.

Caregivers of dementia patients experience high strain

Caring for dementia patients is overwhelming for caregivers. The stresses include physical, emotional and economic pressures. Care givers 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;
  • optimising 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 freedoms 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:

  • promote a dementia friendly society;
  • make dementia a public health and social care priority everywhere;
  • improve attitudes to, 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.

Information courtesy of the World Health Organisation-