Global cost of dementia

A recent report from London-based organization Alzheimer's Disease International has found the global cost of dementia will exceed $604 billion this year, roughly one percent of the world's gross domestic product.

According to this report (the World Alzheimer Report 2010), if dementia care were a country, it would be the world's 18th largest economy and if it were a company it would be the world's largest by annual revenue, beating out retail giant Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil.

These are numbers that grab our attention. Dementia, caused by several disorders and most commonly Alzheimer's disease, is on the rise as the world's population ages. What are we as individual nations and as a global society doing about it?

Right now it is estimated 35 million people have dementia worldwide and the figure is expected to double every 20 years and the costs will rise accordingly. Researchers believe the global cost of caring for those with dementia will surpass $1 trillion by 2030.

Not surprisingly, 70 percent of these costs are paid in North America and Western Europe. Costs are attributed to informal care by family members, direct costs of social care by community professionals and residential home settings and direct medical costs.

This report emphasized the importance for countries and the world to make dementia a priority when creating health care policy in the coming years. Few countries have strategies in place to deal with the quickly increasing numbers of individuals experiencing dementia.

While England, France and Australia do have these policy strategies in place, both Canada and the US do not. This is in spite of the fact that the US is currently ranked as the highest when it comes to the cost of caring for a person with dementia.

In our own country, the Alzheimer's Society and other advocates have been pushing for a federal strategy on dementia care for some time. In a 2009 analysis, the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that dementia accounted for nearly a quarter of all acute care hospitalizations even while finding such hospitalizations were often longer than necessary or not appropriate for meeting the ongoing care needs of those with dementia. We simply do not have the resources to continue dealing with dementia in an ad-hoc way. As the numbers of patients increase, it is becoming increasingly clear we need a comprehensive federal strategy for dementia care.

Ongoing research into treatments and prevention will also need to be one of the cornerstones of any strategy as there is currently no satisfactory treatment solution for those living with dementia.


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