Bernadette Mossman, Healthcare Director at Vida Healthcare, a pioneering care home for people living with dementia, discusses the growth in the number of people with dementia, what this means for the health and social care services, and what can be done to tackle this.
The number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050 to over 16.2 million people in Europe, and two million in the UK1 leading to a significant increase in demands on our health and social care services.
It’s therefore never been more important for dementia care to be prioritised as the ageing population continues to grow and more people develop the disorder. According to Alzheimer’s Society, the total cost of dementia care in the UK is currently at £34.7billion2, yet this is set to increase to a staggering £59.4 billion by 20503.
For many, the cost of providing care for their loved ones diagnosed with dementia is already significant and can be a struggle, but this extreme growth in cases will lead to a strain, not only on individuals, but the economy as a whole.
Oversubscribed and underfunded services will lead to a decrease in the number of workers available and an understanding of the skills needed to provide the necessary care for the population most at risk. The government must work with health and social care providers, including the NHS, care homes and at home carers to understand how this can be tackled and what can be done to improve outcomes.
As the disorder progresses in an individual, they often need round the clock, consistent care to support them in achieving day to day tasks, such as getting dressed in the morning. Staff training is crucial to ensure residents are treated with respect and compassion, and carers fully understand how to successfully meet the needs of people with dementia.
Increased funding will also give dementia care providers and researchers greater ability to cope with a surge in demand and enable more cutting edge care to be delivered.
However, a reactive approach such as staff training and the funding of services can only tackle the increase so far. Proactively addressing dementia before it develops in individuals will enable us to reduce social care costs and give people the care they need.
Raising awareness of the disorder, and associated behaviours which are believed to cause dementia, is one method which can encourage people to positively change and spot symptoms in advance.
Although the percentage risk of developing dementia due to causes outside of our control is 65%, the percentage risk of controllable lifestyle factors is still high at 35%4. Making changes to diet, exercise and seeking help for hearing loss and mental health disorders can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
We must therefore encourage the general population to understand these risk factors and their link with dementia, and make the necessary changes in their life. Switching to a healthier diet such as Mediterranean, stopping smoking and increasing exercise frequency to meet the recommended daily amount can all contribute to healthier brain function and reduced risk.
This, in turn, will reduce the number of people who develop dementia, and therefore support health and social care services through a decrease in demand.
Raising awareness of dementia will encourage openness and discussions around the disorder, and enable earlier diagnosis as well as reduced development. Health and social care provision will therefore be more able to offer the care needed at an earlier stage and be better able to cope with demand.
If handled correctly through reactive and proactive measures, patients living with dementia will lead happier, healthier and more independent lives for longer, and our services will be better prepared to tackle the increase in the disorder.
Source one: https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/number-of-people-with-dementia-in-europe-set-to-double-by-2050/
Source two: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/policy-and-influencing/dementia-scale-impact-numbers