Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia affects more than 35 million people worldwide and with no cure in sight, that number is expected to triple to 115 million by 2050, according to a new report.
It begins with forgetfulness and mild confusion; however, as the brain disorder progresses, victims find their decision-making abilities hampered and eventually have difficulty communicating and caring for themselves.
Eventually the individual will no longer recognize family and friends and require constant care in the later stages of Alzheimer's, becoming dependent on those who once depended on them or in the case of many, putting their lives in the hands of complete strangers in nursing homes.
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On Thursday, Alzheimer’s Disease International – a group of some 79 Alzheimer’s associations – released its annual "World Alzheimer's Report," in which it outlined the impending global risks of the disease as well as policy recommendations to more adequately care for those living with Alzheimer’s.
In the 2013 World Alzheimer's Report
, titled "Journey of Care," researchers warn that "as the world population ages, the traditional system of 'informal' care by family, friends, and community will require much greater support." (http://www.alz.co.uk/research/world-report-2013)
According to the report, the current worldwide cost of dementia care is $600 billion, approximately 1 percent of the global GDP, and as the number of cases rise with no cure yet for the debilitating disease, so will the costs.
By 2050, U.S. costs associated with caring for those with dementia will increase to $1.2 trillion, the Alzheimer's Association projects.
"If dementia were a country, it would be the world's 21st largest economy," the report says, "ranking between Poland and Saudi Arabia."
Presently, 13 percent of people aged 60 or older, which is equivalent to just over 100 million people worldwide, require long-term care, the majority of which suffer from dementia, according to the report.
In the U.S. alone, 80 percent of older people in nursing homes are living with dementia, the report finds.
Other disturbing statistics put forth in the 2013 World Alzheimer's Report are that nearly half of those suffering with dementia require personal care, or will need it at some point in their lives, and the chances of dementia increases with every five years in age.
Though it is primarily diagnosed among people over 65 years old, Alzheimer's can affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
In addition to its projections and warnings, the report also provides a series of recommendations to world governments on how to better handle the ever increasing rate of Alzheimer's among their population.
As stated on their website, the Alzheimer’s Disease International recommendations are a follows.
• Governments around the world should make dementia a priority by implementing national plans, and by initiating urgent national debates on future arrangements for long-term care.
• Systems should to be in place to monitor the quality of dementia care in all settings – whether in care homes or in the community.
• Autonomy and choice should be promoted at all stages of the dementia journey, prioritising the voices of people with dementia and their caregivers.
• Health and social care systems should be better integrated and coordinated to meet people’s needs
• Front-line caregivers must be adequately trained and systems will need to be in place to ensure paid and unpaid carers receive appropriate financial reward in order to sustain the informal care system and improve recruitment and retention of paid carers.
• Care in care homes is a preferred option for a significant minority – quality of life at home can be as good, and costs are comparable if the unpaid work of family caregivers is properly valued.
• The quality of care in care homes should be monitored through the quality of life and satisfaction of their residents, in addition to routine inspections, as care homes will remain an important component of long-term care.
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