With the aging global population, reports suggest that there will be a hike in the number of dementia sufferers and that it will almost triple from 50 million to 155 million within 2050. The Director General of WHO (World Health Organization), Dr. Tedros Adhanom said that nearly 15 million individuals are attacked by this neurodegenerative disease every year and 6 million are attacked in the low-middle income nations. The suffering that comes as a consequence of this disease is enormous and this is rather an alarm call to which experts should pay more attention. Along with this soaring challenge, the medical health professionals have to make sure that all people who live with dementia receive the apt level of care that they need.
As per global estimates, the yearly cost of dementia is $820 billion which is equivalent to an amount that surpasses 1% of the global GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The entire cost includes social and informal care, direct medical costs and the loss of income of the caregivers. By the year 2030, this total cost is anticipated to become more than double and will reach $2 trillion. This is indeed enormous and it is more than enough to undermine and slog down the economic and social development of the nations along with the long-term health care systems.
Launch of the first-ever global monitoring system
If you hadn’t heard of the web-based platform that was launched by WHO, it is the Global Dementia Observatory with noble goals of tracking the progress on provisions of various services that are offered to people suffering with dementia and for all those who provide caregiving, both within the nation and throughout the world. Just as there are Australian home care services running in Australia, similarly there are such services being offered in all the countries where dementia is spreading like an epidemic. This observatory platform will supervise the presence of plans and national policy, the infrastructure that is required for offering treatment and care and measures for reducing risk among patients. It also includes details on the surveillance system and data on the soaring burden of the disease.
This is probably the first-ever global monitoring system for this neurodegenerative disorder which includes a wide variety of data, according to WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Dr. Tarun Dua. Through this system, we can not only track the progress but also identify each of those areas which require efforts to improve.
A well-executed plan for dementia and support for caregivers
Till date, the World Health Organization has gathered data from 21 countries which belong to different kinds of income levels and by the time its 2050, it is predicted that 50 nations will be contributing to this data. The current results imply that a large number of countries are already exercising action in various areas like spreading dementia awareness, planning dementia reduction and improving a dementia-friendly environment. They are also working on provision of more support and training for the caregivers (who are mostly unprofessional and who are family members).
Among the several countries which have reported data so far:
- 85% have conducted a dementia awareness program or a campaign which only dealt with reduction of risk
- 73% offer training and support for the caregivers, the unprofessional family members
- 72% have a well-set plan for fighting dementia
- 68% have adapted a dementia-friendly initiative
The aforementioned sets of activities have all been decided by WHO in their Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025. This plan offers a blueprint for the nations to take action in different areas like ensuring a dementia-friendly environment, spreading awareness of the disease, diminishing the risk of diagnosis of dementia, innovation and research, care and treatment and required support for the dementia caregivers. This plan suggests the solid actions that the policy makers, social and health care providers can take. This particular plan has been developed to respect the human rights of the people suffering from dementia. The targets and the progress of the plan can be easily measured.
Research and diagnosis needs constant effort
Just 15% of the countries that have already reported their data could imply the total number of people who are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. There were many previous studies which suggest that more than 90% of the people suffering from dementia are not aware of their sufferings. At the same time, there have been some motivating signs of financing for investment in the field of research for dementia cure in recent years. Nevertheless, there is a lot that has to be done.
It is rather more surprising to see that the total number of articles in journals on dementia by 2018 was around 7000. If you compare this against articles on diabetes or cancer, you’ll find 15,000 and 99,000 respectively during the same year. Hence this proves that there is enough research needed to plan a cure for dementia, how to reduce the risk, how to improve areas and how to diagnose the disease and treat it accordingly.
The web-based observatory platform will also offer a knowledge bank where social and health care authorities like the researchers, medical professionals and civil society organizations will find the regional and national profiles on dementia, guidance policies, global reports and toolkits and guidelines on dementia care and prevention.
An attempt to diminish the number of falls among people with dementia
With the rise in the number of falls among dementia patients which is spurring the disability rate among dementia patients, there is an exercise program and home safety program which has been created to prevent so many falls within a community setting. However, it is sad enough to note that as per preliminary studies it was seen that this community program couldn’t create any difference in the rate of falls. This was the iFocus Trial at an Occupational Therapy Conference located in Sydney and Prof. Lindy Clemson discussed few of the initial results of this 4-year trial program.
There is no doubt about the fact that falls are one of the biggest issues of concern among people suffering from dementia as against those who haven’t gone through any cognitive decline. In fact, the yearly incidence of falls for dementia sufferers is as high as 80% and there are also too many who have had a fractured hand or leg due to falls due to dementia. 28% of the admissions to nursing homes for people suffering from dementia are related to falls and resulting injuries.
The medical health analysts and experts are still thinking of establishing an efficient strategy so that they could bring about a reduction in the instance of falls among dementia sufferers. Research reveals that continuing with research programs could help in avoiding falls among the senior population. In the Australian National Conference, Prof. Lindy Clemson spoke of rehabilitation of older people so that in home dementia care Brisbane services don’t get too necessary. There is also another current study which is done to make sure whether such a similar intervention could work for people suffering from memory issues and dementia.
Working along with caregivers
Their trial included 310 people who had varying degrees of dementia (at different stages) who were all segregated into 2 groups, among which 1 undergone an intervention which focused on home exercise and safety. This group also got around 11 home visits by an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist who even worked with the caregivers who were in need of professional guidance and education.
However, despite having such high hopes on this program, as per what data suggests, even after 12 months, the program didn’t prevent too many falls, as was expected. Hence, it was proved that the program turned out to be ineffective. It was immensely disappointing to notice that there weren’t any difference in the rate of falls even after all the efforts that they put in to create this helpful intervention. Physical activity also didn’t seem to prevent falls and so the intervention made no noteworthy difference to the burden of care.
Professor Clemson said that she noticed that people really preferred the intervention that they had planned, dementia sufferers were happy about the therapist coming to their home but unfortunately it didn’t make any huge difference. She also added that in spite of the disappointing results, it is vital to comprehend what actually happened and what implications can be remembered for future research into fall prevention.
She pointed out several risk factors which are related to dementia, among which some were reaction time being too slow, reduced chances of mobility or polypharmacy which might have reduced the intensity of the consequences of this program. The dosage of exercise may have been too low. There are still many researchers who are trying their best to skim data so that they could improve the results of this program. Many more conferences are being held in order to improve dementia care and reduce falls.
Dementia awareness programs in eclectic Australia – The Moving Pictures Project
The population in Australia is gradually growing diverse and it is even getting older with time. 1 among 3 Australians is being seen to come with a migrant background where they’re linguistically and also culturally diverse, as per reports from Professor Bianca Brijnath of National Ageing Research Institute. Australia being a multi-cultural country and that the population is ageing, there are two things that are happening right now.
With the aging Australian population, dementia rates are automatically on the rise which had led to the analysts being concerned about whether or not there is enough capacity in the healthcare system to meet the needs and requirements of dementia patients. However, if you take into account the individual level, one of the most important concerns is to identify or diagnose the disease as soon as possible.
Is dementia being diagnosed on time?
It is very important that dementia is diagnosed on time as their communities and families can get enough time to plan and think of the kind of care that the patient needs. What sort of interventions can work for them and what kind of assistance do they need in order to keep up with their race against time? While it is true that recognising the initial signs and symptoms can be challenging for the doctor and the patient but it is also true that there are added obstacles to the diagnosis of dementia in CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) groups. The signs are not always seen as a mental disorder and hence this leads to delayed identification of the disease.
How the Moving Pictures Project came in?
While Professor Brijnath approached the issue of spreading awareness of such mental health disorders like dementia among the CALD communities, her team on the project called Moving Pictures determined to leverage digital and film media for the ease of communication and immediacy. This project let go of several impediments associated with literacy and hence they didn’t require thinking of whether people knew English or understood it or could write the language.
They went through a study all over the nation to amalgamate data from each communities about the kind of data that would be helpful. They even had a discussion with the front-end service providers like the GPs who were a vital and inseparable part of the Moving Pictures project. GPs played a crucial role in the CALD communities. He also thought that GPs are the lighthouse whenever people navigate through dementia and try to understand the behaviors linked with it.
Among the CALD communities, there is a belief that dementia care should occur by someone from the family. However, it can get to a point where caregivers can badly need external help just to ensure that the burden is a bit lighter on them. Whether the person is being cleaned everyday or there’s someone who is taking him for coffee once in a week or the caregiver is receiving a cup of tea on time, all things need to be ensured.
The team from Moving Pictures is pleased to find the awesome results of the project and they hope that the CALD groups in Australia will now be able to fight back dementia.