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  • Writer's pictureSteven Young

The very real threat of Dementia

Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. It is a broad term used to describe a loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and physical functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for between 50 – 70% of all dementia cases.

Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65. However, people in their 40s and 50s can also have dementia.

Australia faces a shortage of more than 150,000 paid and unpaid carers for people with dementia by 2029. The cost of replacing all family carers with paid carers is estimated at $5.5 billion per annum. Dementia will become the third greatest source of health and residential aged care spending within two decades. By the 2060s, spending on dementia is set to outstrip that of any other health condition. It is projected to be $83 billion (in 2006-07 dollars), and will represent around 11% of the entire health and residential aged care sector spending

An estimated 1.2 million Australians are caring for someone with dementia. Dementia is fatal and, as yet, there is no cure. Dementia has an impact on every part of the health and care system. The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$604 billion in 2010. These costs account for about 1% of the world’s gross domestic product.

If dementia were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy
If it were a company, it would be the world’s largest, exceeding Wal-Mart (US$414 billion) and Exxon Mobil (US$311 billion).
There are approximately 16,000 people in Australia with Younger Onset Dementia (a diagnosis of dementia under the age of 65)
Dementia is the third leading cause of death in Australia, after heart disease and stroke. One in four people over the age of 85 have dementia

An estimated 269,000 Australians currently live with dementia. Without a major medical breakthrough, that is expected to soar to about 981,000 by 2050. In NSW an estimated 92,000 people live with dementia, which is expected to grow to 302,500 by 2050. Each week, there are 1,500 new cases of dementia in Australia. That is expected to grow to 7,400 new cases each week by 2050.

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