Over 50 million people worldwide are currently living with dementia, and according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), this number is set to rise to 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050.
Yet, that’s not even the bad news. The report revealed that only one in four countries currently has national policies supporting dementia patients and their families.
Dementia Patients Matter
“Dementia robs millions of people of their memories, independence and dignity, but it also robs the rest of us of the people we know and love,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“The world is failing people with dementia, and that hurts all of us. Four years ago, governments agreed a clear set of targets to improve dementia care. But targets alone are not enough. We need concerted action to ensure that all people with dementia are able to live with the support and dignity they deserve.”
In 2015, world health ministers agreed on a global action plan to address dementia cases by 2025. Unfortunately, they’re failing to meet their targets.
What’s more, a new report from the Alzheimer’s Society, written in collaboration with Richard Sloggett, the Stabilise, Energise, Realise, revealed that if the needs aren’t properly addressed, then by 2030, over half a million people with dementia in the UK will not have access to a care home bed.
“The recent figures forecasting a shortage of care home beds are a grave concern – every person with dementia should be entitled to quality care, but social care is failing them and their families.”, says Kate Lee, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society.
Low-income countries are in trouble
Katrin Seeher is from the WHO’s mental health and substance use department. Seeher revealed that more than 60% of people living with dementia were in low and middle-income countries.
These countries are also less equipped to provide services and care for people with dementia. Sadly, medication, hygiene products, and household adjustments for dementia patients are more accessible in wealthy countries.
“[This] means that again, family members and close friends do need to chip in even more, so the rates for informal care are even higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries,” Seeher said. She added that it’s important for us to reduce the gap that exists between high-income and low and middle-income countries.
Reducing dementia risks
“These are the things that we can do to promote our brain health and decrease the cognitive decline and the risk for dementia. These are things that can be started at a younger age,” said Tarun Dua, a WHO expert.
Developing dementia is not inevitable, and there are things one can do to reduce their risk.
“It’s important to remember what’s good for your heart is good for your brain,” Seeher told Al Jazeera. So what are these things?
We recommend staying physically active, adopting a plant-based diet, not smoking, not drinking alcohol or reducing it to a minimum, keeping stress to a minimum, and having a healthy social life.
The bottom line
Dementia is a serious disease that needs to be addressed.
Dr. Tarun Dua is the Head of the Brain Health Unit at the WHO. According to him, the WHO is developing the Dementia Research Blueprint. It is a global coordination mechanism to provide structure to research efforts and stimulate new initiatives.
Additionally, the WHO report also shared that more and more countries are implementing public awareness campaigns about dementia.
“Our recommendations for social care reform today should be met with open arms by the government,” says Ms Lee. “Politicians have the opportunity to step forward and make a properly reformed social care system the legacy of the pandemic. Never again must we leave our most vulnerable so unsupported.”
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