A Public Health Emergency
According to World Health Organization estimates, there are currently 47 million people worldwide living with dementia. By 2030, the WHO projects the number will grow to 75 million, and triple to nearly 150 million by 2050. Despite popular belief, dementia is not a natural part of aging. Instead, it’s a syndrome caused by a variety of brain illnesses affecting memory, thinking, behavior, and in turn, a host of daily activities.
Because dementia is so debilitating, it takes an unusually heavy toll on patients, their families, and society at large. In 2010, the AARP placed the average cost of care for a dementia patient at more than $56,000 per year. Making matters even worse, caregivers and family members cover 60% of that cost out of their own pockets.
After examining both the scope and cost, it’s no surprise many see the looming dementia epidemic as a public health emergency. But with no cure on the horizon, what can possibly be done to stem this seemingly unavoidable tide?
Hope in Prevention
A recent study in the journal Lancet offers hope that dementia cases could be reduced by as much as 35% by addressing specific risk factors during early, mid, and late life.
For example, maximizing education opportunities early in life could reduce ones dementia risk by 8%. During midlife, the study finds that aggressively treating hearing loss, hypertension, and obesity could cut dementia cases by 12%. In late life, smoking, depression, inactivity, social isolation, and diabetes are risk factors that could account for 15% of dementia cases.
This new study offers a dementia-prevention roadmap doctors and their patients can use to reduce lifetime risk. It also underscores the importance of early education, hearing loss, and smoking as overall risk factors.
There’s No Time to Wait
While the scope of the coming threat is concerning, this new study offers a glimmer of hope that the worst won’t actually come to pass. But if we truly want to reduce dementia cases – along with their associated social costs – we must act now. Parent must set the stage for their children to become life-long learners. While those in middle age must monitor their health and address risk factors as they develop.
It’s important to note that there are steps even those late in life can take to reduce their risk for dementia. While some seniors will be able to actively address their own health concerns, others will need help taking action. This where qualified caregivers can be of great help.
A good caregiver can monitor prescription intake, help with physical activity, and provide important companionship for seniors living on their own. This type of care will likely play an important role as our society continues to address dementia in the coming years.
Live in Phoenix? Call Generations Home Care
If you live in the greater Phoenix area and need a qualified caregiver, Generations Home Care can help. Take a look at our complete list of services, then give us a call at 602-595-HOME (4663). During our free in-home assessment, we’ll interview you and your loved one so we can then create a customized service plan that precisely fits your needs. As a new client, you may qualify for up to 16 free hours of service if you book soon!
Dementia isn’t an unavoidable byproduct of aging, but we all need to start working towards that goal today.