Alzheimer's disease, and other forms of dementia, are conditions that affect people all over the world. A new report took a closer look at the actual global impact of Alzheimer's.
This new report, presented by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), focused on the issue of long-term care — often a necessity for patients with dementia, a condition involving a variety of issues with brain function like memory, cognition and behavior.
The report estimated that the number of older adults requiring long-term care will increase to 277 million by the year 2050, with about half of these people being dementia patients.
The report's authors, led by Martin Prince, MD, MSc, of King’s College London's Institute of Psychiatry, explained that the rising prevalence of both dementia and the need for long-term care are related to an aging global population.
The report estimated that between 2010 and 2050, the number of older adults around the globe requiring long-term care will almost triple — rising from 101 million to 277 million.
Dr. Prince and colleagues noted that a large portion of this long-term care population involves people with dementia.
"Around half of all people with dementia need personal care (and the others will develop such needs over time). Around half of all older people who need personal care have dementia, while four-fifths of older people in nursing homes are people with dementia," the report noted.
The report explained that long-term care is a complicated issue, often involving many of different interested parties and aspects, including the family, a residence, medical care, social services and financial matters.
Dementia care is also an expensive issue. The report estimated that in 2010, the annual costs of dementia around the world were $604 billion, or 1 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).
GDP is a measure of the monetary value of all finished goods and services produced within a country. The global GDP is a measure of the combined monetary value of all these goods and services worldwide.
"If dementia care were a country, it would rank between Turkey and Indonesia and be the world’s 18th largest economy," the study authors noted.
In an interview with dailyRx News, Adam C. Powell, PhD, health care economist and president of Payer+Provider, explained that the nature of changes in population further complicates the issue.
"The population structures of many countries may make long-term care for Alzheimer's patients more difficult and more expensive to provide, unless less labor-intensive forms of long-term care are developed," said Dr. Powell. "We are increasingly seeing countries with growing elderly populations and declining fertility rates. As a result, the number of patients is likely to increase, while the number of informal caretakers is likely to decrease."
To tackle the complicated and growing matter of long-term care, the report recommended a number of steps to improve quality of care for patients and increase support for their caregivers.
These steps include measuring and monitoring quality of care at all levels, promoting autonomy and choice for patients and caregivers, coordinating and integrating care at different levels and valuing and developing the workforce providing this care.
The report also called for increased research into dementia and increased discussion and planning on the part of individual countries to prepare for rising long-term care needs.
In an ADI news release, Dr. Prince noted that dementia patients often require more expensive, more personal and more complicated types of long-term care.
"Their need for care start early in the disease course, and evolve constantly over time, requiring advanced planning, monitoring and coordination. We need to value the unpaid contribution of family caregivers more, and reward paid caregivers better. We can build quality into our care systems, but to do so while containing costs and achieving equity of access for all will be a challenge," said Dr. Prince.
World Alzheimer's Report 2013 was released September 20. The report was commissioned by ADI and Bupa, an international healthcare company. No conflicts of interest were reported.