Monday, January 4, 2010

Dementia cases to increase dramatically

Thirty years is a long time and perhaps in that time many more effective treatments will be found. On reading this article one wonders whether the statistics are wrong or simply manipulated to make the situation sound more dire than it is. The accumulative cost over thirty years is 872 billion which divided by thirty gives an average cost or around 29 billion a year a little less than twice the present cost. However the data is presented by the article as a ten fold increase. Perhaps that is so although the article does not give any indication how that was arrived at. In any event this would be in 2038. We hadn't been paying anything close to that in earlier years. Nevertheless the article still shows that dementia is an important issue and everything possible should be done to lessen the effects of the increase in cases.

Huge wave of dementia cases coming, warns report
Updated: Mon Jan. 04 2010 10:40:29 AM News Staff

So many Canadians are expected to develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the next 30 years that a new case will be diagnosed every two minutes unless preventive measures are taken, a new report says.

The report, released Monday by the Alzheimer Society, says the prevalence of dementia will more than double in the next 30 years.

By 2038, almost three per cent of Canada's population will be affected by dementia, and about 257,800 new cases will be diagnosed per year.

Today, dementia costs Canada about $15 billion a year; those costs could soon increase by 10-fold.

"If nothing changes, this sharp increase in the number of people living with dementia will mean that by 2038, the total costs associated with dementia will reach $153 billion a year," David Harvey, principal spokesperson for the Alzheimer Society project called "Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society," said in a statement.

That amounts to a cumulative total of $872 billion over the 30-year period.

Much of the increase in cases can be attributed to the "greying" of Canada. With Canadians living longer and baby boomers aging, there is expected to be a spike in many chronic diseases that come with age, such as heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

But the expected rising rates of dementia are not just about demographics; poor lifestyles also play a role.

It's been well documented that regular physical and mental exercise can delay the onset of dementia, which includes Alzheimer's disease and other progressive diseases that destroy brain cells. For that reason, the report recommends that all Canadians over 65 without dementia increase their physical activity by 50 per cent.

"Prevention is where we need to be starting," Harvey told Canada AM.

"We know that healthy eating and active living are antidotes to dementia."

The "Rising Tide" report calls on government to fund more health promotion to remind Canadians of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

"This intervention would reduce the number of people diagnosed with dementia, resulting in a reduction in the pressure on long-term care facilities, community care services and informal caregivers," the report says.

Need for national strategy

Just as important, Harvey says, is the need for Canada's health care system to adapt to accommodate the projected rise in dementia cases.

"Dementia is one of the leading cases of disability amongst older people," Harvey said, noting that the flood of dementia expected in the next 30 years could overwhelm emergency rooms and hospitals.

His group's report calls for more support for informal caregivers -- generally, family members -- who tend to be the ones who care for patients with dementia in the early stages of the disease.

"There are services that can be put in place to support caregivers, and also economic and financial support for caregivers," he said.

By also providing caregivers with skill-building and support programs, caregivers struggling with the overwhelming emotional and financial hardships of providing care may feel better equipped to care for their loved one.

That could go far to delay admission of patients into long-term care facilities, thereby lessening the burden on the health care system.

The report also suggests assigning "system navigators" to each newly diagnosed dementia patient and their caregivers. These case managers would help families navigate the health system to find the right social services for their loved one depending on their stage of dementia.

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