December 5, 2013 2:41 pm
Updated: December 10, 2013 1:00 pm

‘Woefully unprepared’ for world dementia epidemic, report warns

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Video: According to a new report, the number of people living with dementia is predicted to triple by 2050. Ross Lord reports.

TORONTO – A global study is predicting that by 2050, 135 million people worldwide will be living with dementia. It’s warning that right now world governments are “woefully unprepared” for the epidemic ahead of us.

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In a new report released Thursday, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) said that in 2013, some 44 million people suffer from dementia. By 2030, that number could hit 76 million and by 2050, the numbers could reach 135 million.

“It’s here, it’s on our doorstep. Governments need to take action, otherwise the health care system operates in a crisis mode,” ADI  deputy director Johan Vos told Global News.

ADI represents an international federation of Alzheimer’s associations with 79 member countries. It’s the global voice on dementia, with direct ties to the World Health Organization and the United Nations.

READ MORE: As dementia sets in, artists still recall drawing from memory

He suggested that if governments didn’t act on the looming dementia crisis, there’ll be repercussions in the future.

“More and more people are going to rely on your health care system and it’s going to get bogged down by so many more people in need of help. The help they need is intense, it’s 24 hours a day. How does a system cope with that?”

Thirteen countries have already established a national dementia plan – Canada is not one of them. That includes all of the G8 countries meeting next week at an inaugural special summit on dementia.

“I would think that as a G8 country, Canada could and should show some leadership and say we’re planning for it,” Vos said from London, U.K.

Ottawa health officials, including Minister Rona Ambrose, are slated to attend the summit on Dec. 11. Alzheimer Society of Canada CEO Mimi Lowi-Young was personally invited by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

READ MORE: Ontario Alzheimer Society launches its first multicultural awareness campaign

Lowi-Young said that Canadians are well aware of the spike in dementia cases.

“You just have to walk down the street and ask people if they know somebody or have a relative with the disease. Many people are touched by it,” Lowi-Young said.

The organization has been lobbying the federal government for a national dementia plan for at least five years. Lowi-Young said a national strategy would roll in key objectives: research, programs that look after caregivers, understanding diagnosis and early treatment, as examples.

WATCH: NDP calls on government to introduce a national dementia strategy

About 747,000 Canadians already have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia – that’s expected to double to 1.4 million in less than 20 years.

READ MORE: Brain exercise trumps medication in maintaining seniors’ cognitive health: study

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It affects memory, thinking and behaviour.

It’s also one of the most costly illnesses that global health care officials have had to deal with. A U.S. report suggests it tops cancer and heart disease, costing families and society $157 billion to $215 billion a year.

READ MORE: Alzheimer’s most costly malady in US topping cancer, heart disease: study

The biggest cost isn’t drugs or medical treatment, it’s the care that mentally impaired people need through daily life.

Read Alzheimer’s Disease International’s full report here.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2013 Shaw Media

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