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Dementia costs to top US$1 trillion globally by 2018

The global cost of caring for those with dementia is set to top US$1 trillion by 2018 and the total number of cases is set to reach almost 75 million by 2030, a new report has found.

Launched by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) in London this week, the paper, World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia: An analysis of prevalence, incidence, cost and trends, warned that almost 10 million new cases would be identified worldwide every year. This, the report’s authors noted, equated to one new case every 3.2 seconds.

The updated estimates on the global rates of the condition are based on new research led by professor Martin Prince at King’s College London’s Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care. Prince found that the global cost of dementia had increased from $604 billion in 2010 to $818 billion in 2015 – representing a rise in total cost of about 35 per cent.

In a statement issued by ADI, the organisation noted that at such a cost, if dementia were its own country “it would be the 18th-largest economy in the world, and would exceed the market values of companies such as Apple [(US $742 billion) $1 trillion] and Google (US$368 billion)”.

“We now believe we underestimated the current and future scale of the epidemic by 12–13 per cent in the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, with costs growing more rapidly than the numbers of people affected,” Prince said.

ADI’s Australia-based chair Glenn Rees said the report’s findings must be acted upon urgently and were a vital tool in efforts to “advocate for action in international forums to fight back against the stigma of dementia and encourage the growth of dementia-friendly communities and countries”.

“This action should include timely diagnosis and post-diagnostic support and improved access to support and care, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” Rees said.

Speaking in Canberra yesterday at the Catholic Health Australia national conference, Rees said that while Australia had previously shown global leadership in becoming the first nation to make dementia a key health priority, much could still be learned from other countries’ responses to dementia.

He told delegates that the priority given to dementia research by the current government, along with consumer directed care and expanded community care were significant achievements but said the implementation of the aged-care reforms promised in 2012 had failed to measure up.

“With the focus on gateways and technology, we risk losing the human face and recognition of the need for specialist skills in the community to support and care for special groups including those with dementia,” Rees concluded. “That is why dementia key workers and respite matter. As much as all of us and governments would wish it, there is no one-size-fits-all approach with dementia.”

Listen to hear an interview with Rees.

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