10 important stats to know from the 2016 World Alzheimer Report

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 2, 2017

Each year, scientists around the globe work to learn more about dementia and other forms of memory loss in an effort to curb the condition and aid millions of families worldwide.

Each year, the organization Alzheimer's Disease International releases a comprehensive report on the state of memory care around the world. This report includes the latest treatments and best practices, as well as barriers and concerning trends.

The 2016 World Alzheimer Report highlights the most current information available regarding the condition. We've pulled out a few of the most interesting and notable statistics from this past year's report. Chosen are the ones that better explain the status of dementia care worldwide:

The report states that there are roughly 47 million people living with memory loss across the globe. This figure will continue to grow due to the fact that developing countries have limited resources aimed at a diagnosis and discovering treatment for this disease.

In developed countries, the vast majority of dementia prognoses are made by a primary care physician during a regular check up or appointment. However, a study in the U.K. found that just 20 percent of general practitioners actually conducted cognitive tests with older patients. This is problematic, as catching dementia early is much more likely when patients have had their mental capacities reviewed.

Separate research found that assessing patients between the ages of 60 and 79 based on lifestyle factors was useful in predicting the risk of dementia. Strong indicators included things such as smoking tobacco, heavy alcohol use, an abnormal body mass index, the use of certain prescription drugs, heart health and social activity. Health professionals could identify at-risk patients given behavioral data.

One reason a proper diagnosis of dementia is essential, is because of the fact that it allows the patient, as well as their family, to prepare for what is to come. Along with that, it also helps to minimize health care costs because troubling symptoms are able to be better understood. In fact, following a positive prognosis, patients incurred an average of $19,824 in health expenses over the next 12 months, while those who were not given such an assessment paid $25,863 in care within the same period. Receiving a positive diagnosis is something that is difficult but it is also very essential.

Patients living with dementia may not face inflated health care expenses, but also more complicated ones. Memory loss can make it hard to stay healthy, and, in later stages, cause serious health complications.

For example, the report states that inpatient residents with dementia are also three times as likely to experience a fall during an admission. This can create new issues and was found to double the average hospital stay from 13 days to 30 days.

Because mitigating the negative effects of memory loss is a crucial but complex undertaking, doctors, family members, caregivers and patients may benefit from a coordinated approach, and a strong framework. The report highlighted a care pathway, created by the organization Alzheimer Scotland, which uses five key considerations as a basis for mitigating the effects of the condition. Known as the Alzheimer Scotland 5 Pillars Model, the steps are as follows:

  1. Understanding the illness and managing symptoms
  2. Planning for future decision making
  3. Supporting community connections
  4. Peer support
  5. Planning for future care

This pathway is one of many useful resources that families can use to structure their decision making process after a diagnosis. The report also states, that if widely adopted, a tool such as this could be used to standardize care and improve responsiveness by putting an emphasis on preparedness and planning.

A survey conducted in the U.K. found that 57 percent of patients living with memory loss had undergone a review of medications in the six months prior to the poll. According to the National Institute on Aging, prescription drugs can greatly complicate symptoms in dementia patients and should be a key consideration when assessing on-going health.

In some instances, digital tools have been used to support those living with dementia. This includes online databases and resources as well as more advanced software. Families may use these platforms to make better choices when providing care for a loved one, but unfortunately, 90 percent of patients using computer-assisted assessments and guidance saw three or more unmet needs. Some of these unmet needs include unsatisfactory care, social or legal support and pharmacological treatments.

Caregivers offer dementia patients critical care and are important allies for families during this time. The report found that after a survey was conducted in the U.S., only 32 percent of caregivers reported feeling confident in their ability to manage memory loss, and just 19 percent knew how to access community-based resources. This reinforces the value provided by professional, reputable caregivers who can ensure the best available treatment.

The report stated that by 2050, there could potentially be as many as 131 million individuals living with dementia worldwide. In the U.S., an aging population means that this trend will hold true for Americans. Health professionals and caregivers will need to leverage the best available practices and techniques for diagnosing, as well as and mitigating the effects of the condition to minimize costs and hardships moving forward.

Families and caregivers should use the 2016 World Alzheimer Report to recognize the importance of being proactive about dementia in an older loved one. Taking positive steps can reduce costs and hardships associated with the condition. 

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