Dementia is a significant and growing problem in many countries, not just in America. A new report prepared by researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London indicates that worldwide cases of the disease will almost double every twenty years, from 35 million in 2010 to 65.7 million in 2030 and more than 115 million in 2050. Among all chronic diseases looked at, dementia is responsible for the largest share of people classified as disabled and requiring care.

Why the seeming surge in cases of dementia? Much of it is because for years, dementia in certain locales was never identified as such. The institute's report is based on new data gathered from recent studies in low- and middle-income countries throughout Western Europe, Latin America, and South Asia. It turns out that the percentages of older people afflicted with dementia is higher than previously estimated even just a few years ago. In Western Europe, 7.3 percent of older adults have dementia versus the 5.9 believed to have it; in Latin America 8.5 percent of the elderly are affected versus 7.3 percent; and South Asia's older population is affected at the rate of 5.7 percent, not 3.4 percent. In North America the percentage of older adults who have it is exactly what researchers previously estimated, and in East Asia the numbers are actually lower (4.98 percent who have it versus the 6.46 percent previously thought to have it). Right now 57.7 percent of all people with dementia are from low- and middle-income countries, a figure that will increase to more than 70 percent in the next 40 years as diagnosis gets more sophisticated and lifespan in these countries continues to rise.

Dementia costs societies around the planet billions of dollars a year, and experts widely acknowledge that caring for someone with dementia can be a full-time job that takes its toll on a caregiver's work, family and friends. While you may not be able to erase the global burden of this disease, you can make changes to your own situation that ease it. As a caregiver, don't neglect to exercise, eat right or get enough sleep. Understand that you may not be able to handle the burden on your own. Try to find out if there's an adult daycare or visiting nurse program nearby to help reduce the strain. Don't be shy about asking other family members for help. Finally, try to give yourself credit for everything that you do instead of feeling guilty over the tasks that are too much for you.


Sources: King's College London,, Alzheimers Organization,