Warning from Federation Chief: Progress on Alzheimer’s Disease Showing Signs of Stagnation

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) isn’t a rare ailment; it’s the most prevalent form of dementia among the elderly, contributing significantly to their mortality rates. Currently, about 7 million individuals in the EU are grappling with AD, and globally, projections estimate that by 2050, approximately 152 million people will be living with dementia.

Yet, despite this alarming surge, Paola Barbarino, the head of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), a global federation of Alzheimer associations, continually finds herself urging governments to prioritize this condition more. She attributes this challenge partly to a widespread lack of awareness. Barbarino emphasizes that this lack of awareness results in governments sidelining dementia in favor of diseases where treatments are available, and long-term care is perceived as less costly.

While the exact cause of AD remains unclear, it’s believed to stem from a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Although there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, certain medications can delay its symptoms.

Barbarino points out that the substantial costs associated with addressing dementia often dissuade policymakers from taking action. However, with appropriate support systems in place, caregivers could continue working and contributing to the economy rather than becoming full-time caregivers.

Alzheimer Europe, another organization focusing on dementia, has also observed a decline in dementia’s prioritization as a policy issue in recent years. In its latest manifesto, the organization called for specific actions to enhance prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment for people with dementia.

Despite encouraging clinicians to identify AD at earlier stages, various barriers hinder timely diagnosis, including dismissing symptoms as part of normal aging and a lack of time for doctors to conduct thorough assessments.

Efforts have also emerged to recognize AD’s disproportionate impact on women. Studies indicate that women face a higher lifetime risk of AD than men, with old age being the most significant risk factor.

In light of these challenges, Barbarino emphasizes the need for greater awareness and public pressure to prompt more individuals to seek diagnosis and access new treatments. She suggests that governments develop and implement dementia plans aligned with WHO guidelines to better prepare for future challenges.

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