Health April 11, 2012
WHO: Dementia Is On The Rise Around The World

Yesterday we posted a video of Henry, a senior suffering from dementia who regained some mental clarity by listening to music. Henry is not alone: dementia afflicts millions of people around the world, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it will soon be a problem for millions more. In a new report, 'Dementia: a public health priority', the WHO estimates that the number of dementia cases worldwide will triple by 2050, from the 35.6 million people living with the condition today to an estimated 115.4 million.

The condition is on the rise, the WHO says, because people are living longer due to advances in medical care, particularly in poorer countries. Dementia tends to afflict older people, and with more of the population living deeper into old age, the condition will become much more common.

Dementia is a brain illness that affects memory, leaving sufferers unable to care for themselves. About 70 percent of cases are linked to Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's and dementia have become major health issues in well-off countries over the last few decades. Meanwhile in low- and middle-income countries, where 58% of sufferers live, there is not as much infrastructure in place to help care for dementia patients. The populations of those countries are also expected to become far more susceptible to dementia in the coming years, and this will lead to soaring costs and heavy demands on the healthcare system.

Most dementia care is provided by informal caregivers: spouses, adult children, family members and friends. More often than not, those caregivers are themselves prone to mental disorders like depression and anxiety, and may suffer economically as they are forced to cut back on work or stop altogether in order to care for a loved-one afflicted with dementia.

In Canada, dementia is expected to affect 1.1 million people in the next 25 years, according to the Alzheimer's Society of Canada. And many Canadians aren't getting treatment as early as they should: a recent survey conducted by the Alzheimer's Society found that 44 percent of dementia sufferers in this country lived for a year or more with their symptoms before seeing a doctor.

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