Dementia Cases Soar Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: WHO

Dementia, the umbrella term for a variety of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities, is becoming more and more prevalent in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While cases of this condition are slowly growing, commitment from governments all over the world is waning, leaving a huge number of people standing at the precipice of unnerving tumult.

Dementia Statistics And Projections

The World Health Organization indicated in a report it released early this month that an estimated 55 million people are currently living with dementia. Of the figure, 8.1% accounted for women and 5.4% for men over 65 years of age. The agency also said that experts are projecting the cases to rise to 78 million by 2030 and to 139 million by 2050. 

Three years ago, Alzheimer’s Research UK reported via its Dementia Statistics Hub that about 50 million people were living with dementia globally. The research charity also projected at the time that the figure could nearly triple by 2050. 

Dementia is a condition that is caused by an array of diseases and injuries affecting the brain. And because it impairs memory and other cognitive functions, people who have it are unable to perform their day-to-day routines and it also makes it difficult for them to live independently. 

“Dementia robs millions of people of their memories, independence and dignity, but it also robs the rest of us of the people we know and love,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said in the agency’s latest report. 

Diminishing Government Support

As most of the governments all over the world are focused more on addressing the pressing matters related to COVID-19, their commitment to supporting people with dementia and their families has evidently receded. In WHO’s latest status report on dementia, the agency indicated that only a quarter of countries all over the world have planned support for dementia cases. 

According to WHO, there is a need for governments worldwide to renew their policies and commitment to providing care for people with dementia and people who provide care for dementia patients. This is because dementia cases may need more than just one type of health care. Aside from primary, specialist care, palliative care, community-based services, rehabilitation and long-term care may also be needed in treating a person suffering with dementia. 

“The world is failing people with dementia, and that hurts all of us. Four years ago, governments agreed a clear set of targets to improve dementia care. But targets alone are not enough. We need concerted action to ensure that all people with dementia are able to live with the support and dignity they deserve,” Ghebreyesus said. 

A New Initiative In The Face Of Dementia 

While other research efforts are still ongoing, including the ones being supported by Alzheimer’s Association, WHO has decided to launch a new initiative in the face of the rising dementia cases and the lack of support from many governments around the world. 

Called the Dementia Research Blueprint, the project aims to provide a “global coordination mechanism” that would help ongoing research efforts and stimulate new initiatives from different countries that would focus on developing new treatments, preventive measures and proper assistance to the carers and families of dementia patients, according to WHO Brain Health Unit head Dr. Tarun Dua.

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