From the present 50 million people suffering from dementia today, the World Health Organization estimates a three-fold increase to 152 million by the year 2050, primarily as a result of a growing ageing population.

Dementia is a syndrome where there is a deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, estimated to account for 60-70 percent of the cases.

Dementia affects the patient as a whole; it has physical, psychological, social and economical impacts, as well as on their families. Carers also suffer physical, emotional and financial stress.

Though the syndrome mainly affects elderly people, it is not part of normal ageing, the WHO stressed.

“Nearly 10 million people develop dementia each year, six million of them in low- and middle-income countries. The suffering that results is enormous,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO then calls countries to ensure that patients get the care they need.

Today, the global cost of caring for patients sits at USD 818 billion, and services include medical, costs, social care and informal care (loss of income of carers).

“By 2030, the cost is expected to have more than doubled, to USD 2 trillion, a cost that could undermine social and economic development and overwhelm health social services, including long-term care systems,” the international health agency warned.

In the Philippines, Commission on Population Executive Director Dr Juan Perez III said that the country has now entered the “ageing population” status, as seven percent of the population is now aged above 60 years.

The increase in population is due to better access to health services, better nutrition and other life-prolonging measures.

However, that also meant that a larger amount of resources will have to be directed to ageing Filipinos, he pointed out.

WHO, meanwhile, launched an in-country and global tracker for dementia, the Global Dementia Observatory.

The web-based platform will “track progress on the provision of services for people with dementia and for those who care for them, both within countries and globally,” according to the United Nations health agency.

“The system will not only enable us to track progress, but just as importantly, to identify areas where future efforts are most needed,” said WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse representative Dr Tarun Dua.

The Observatory will allow for medical professionals and researchers to look at country and regional dementia profiles, essentially serving as a “data bank.” MIMS

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