According to the WHO, the number of people suffering from dementia should skyrocket with the increase in life expectancy, and demographic growth. This issue must become a Public Health priority. The WHO has actually developed a 2017-2025 global plan against dementia.
In 2015, in the wake of the Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia organized by the World Health Organisation, the British government announced that in excess of 100 million dollars would be invested throughout the world in an innovative dementia research fun. The WHO, for its part, committed to creating a Global Dementia Observatory and develop an action plan starting in 2017.
The WHO’s objective is to improve the life of dementia patients, their carers and their families, and reduce the social and economic impact of these cognitive troubles in seven fields of action:
- Making this issue a Public Health priority;
- Better informing and raising the awareness of all stakeholders: citizens, politicians, health professionals, community organizations;
- Reducing the risk of dementia through prevention and a better knowledge of diseases causing neurological troubles;
- Diagnosing, curing and caring;
- Supporting carers and families;
- Developing information systems to collect data on dementia; and
- Developing research & innovation
Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a normal stage of ageing. It is a syndrome caused by a number of neurological diseases that affect memory, reasoning, behaviour and the ability to perform daily tasks. Alzheimer, Parkinson, strokes and head injuries can cause dementia. This may happen at any age, but affects essentially older people (60 to 70% of cases of dementia are caused by Alzheimer). There are two main categories of dementia: degenerative and non-degenerative dementia.
The evolution of the trouble can be slowed down and the patients relieved by detecting symptoms as early as possible; but to do that, causes must be better known. Overall, dementia costs approximately 818 billion dollars a year. With the increase in the number of people affected, these costs should continue to increase and pose a number of difficulties to health care systems.
« She would only occasionally recognize us whereas I grew up at her home.”
Every three seconds, a new case of dementia is diagnosed in the world. This represents approximately 10 million new cases a year. In 2015, 47 million people were affected throughout the world, 60% of which from a country with a low or medium income. By 2050, 152 million people should be affected, 71% of which from a country with a low or medium income.
The retirement homes and centres specialized in providing care to Alzheimer patients, for example, cost a lot. Some carers choose to welcome a relative affected by dementia in their home. These carers must cope with even more physical, psychological and financial pressure.
Adélaïde is 48. She is a manager, she’s married and a mother of three. She hosted in her home for three months her grandmother suffering from Alzheimer disease because she could no longer live alone:
« The whole family organization was turned upside-down. We put her up in our downstairs bedroom, so she did not have to go up and down the stairs. The children had to observe her comings and goings and her needs, check whether she had eaten or drunk anything during the day. We used to take turn with my sister to wash her up. It was extremely trying. She would only occasionally recognize us, whereas I grew up at her home. We had chosen that solution because the retirement home cost over 1,000 euros a month. But she started wandering around the house at night, trying to leave or being aggressive with the youngest one because she would occasionally make noise when playing. We ended up having her institutionalized; we could no longer care for her. We could not be home all day to watch over her and more and more often, she would turn down our offer to help. She was accepted in an Alzheimer home in Boulogne sur Mer (France) where she stayed until the end of her life. Visiting her was very difficult for her condition worsened quickly. It was as if she had become a child again. She would only remember her parents and would repeat the same nonsense over and over again. »
Symptoms and Stages in Dementia
Dementia can be broken down into three progressive stages. Certain forms of dementia can be fought or slowed down. This is not yet the case for Alzheimer.
The first stage is hardly noticeable as the symptoms can be mistaken for absent-mindedness. Patients tend to forget where they have put their bags, their keys, forget appointments or addresses. They lose track of time, they don’t know the day of the week, or have a meal in mid-afternoon. They can get lost in familiar places, such as where they are used to shopping or strolling.
The symptoms of the second stage are more visible. Patients have lapses of memory and forget a recent event, first names or what they have eaten the day before. They can get lost in their own homes or have trouble communicating because they forget words. They start requiring help for certain daily tasks such as preparing meals or getting washed. Their behaviours change, they get up in the middle of the night to wander around the house or repeat the same questions several times.
The last stage is the most severe. Not only are cognitive capacities altered, but patients lose their autonomy. This is visible as they lose track of time and space: they get dressed in the middle of the night to go to the market or cannot find their way back home. It becomes very difficult for them to recognize their friends and relatives, even those who have shared their home. Daily help is required for getting washed, preparing meals or going to bed. The patient may forget to eat or get washed. Walking becomes difficult. Changes in behaviour become more significant and patients can become aggressive.
Dementia is also characterized by great distress in people affected when the disease is not too advanced. They sometimes realize they are confused, that they have trouble recognizing a relative or that they have told the same story several times during the day. It is important to support them.
Sources (French Language) :
– OMS, Observatoire mondial de la démence : http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs362/fr/
– Canoe.ca : http://sante.canoe.ca/condition/getcondition/demence
– Doctissimo : http://www.doctissimo.fr/html/dossiers/alzheimer/niv2/definition-demence.htm
– Senior actu : https://www.senioractu.com/OMS-le-nombre-de-demences-devrait-tripler-dans-les-trente-prochaines-annees_a20520.html