I’m in Denver, capping off my round-the-world trip with two talks at back-to-back meetings here. Since I last posted, I’ve stopped over in Hong Kong and took in the tail end of Typhoon Fanapi. I have also discovered a great way to experience a bit of the feeling of a person living with dementia. Just cross 10-12 time zones in one go and you are instantly disoriented to time and place!
Kavan forwarded an article from McKnight’s titled “Dementia Costs to Consume 1% of Global GDP This Year. This report, a combined effort from Sweden and the UK, indicated that the number of people living with dementia worldwide will double by 2030 and triple by 2050.
This is expressed in the following manner: if dementia were a country, it would have the 18th largest GDP, ahead of Switzerland, Belgium or Indonesia. The availability of high-cost therapies to developing nations could drive this even higher in years ahead.
As usual, I have a “Yes, but…” comment. This is statistically true, but points up the fact that we are not spending our money wisely. It is akin to decrying the rising cost of nursing home care, while avoiding the fact that the modern institutional nursing home is not the best way to provide care for our growing number of frail elders.
Much of the cost of dementia care revolves around the use of very expensive drugs that are either of little value (cholinesterase inhibitors) or downright harmful (anti-psychotics), plus the component of institutionalization of millions of people with all its attendant costs and failures.
And I probably don’t have to mention to readers of of this blog that the above headline continues the ageist trend of viewing our aging population purely as a burden on society.
The answer is to re-frame our view and care of people living with dementia, by creating transformed care environments that re-engage people with meaningful life, harness social capital and enable the elimination of ineffective and dangerous drug treatments. By “de-institutionalizing” the condition, we can provide real care for less cost, and improve well-being for all.
Then, if a true disease-modifying agent comes along (with a predictably high price tag), we will be able to absorb the costs and provide a life worth living as we treat the illness.
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