The cost of dementia is worn on the faces of the thousands of sufferers and their relatives. It is also a worry in the back of most older people’s minds in terms of how they might cope financially if one of their family succumbs to this often long drawn out illness. Yet in spite of the pandemic scale of this disease – 35 million sufferers world-wide – progress towards a cure is slow and investment in research is low.
In reviewing the latest literature on dementia, perhaps the most useful information I have found is contained in a report by Kings College, London, written for the charity Alzheimer’s Disease International. It focuses on the cost of treating the illness and the potential savings to the NHS:-
- Early diagnosis would save £6,175 per sufferer
- Including all the estimated undiagnosed people, this could save nearly £2.8 billion
Early diagnosis is the key, because this has the potential to prevent sufferers being admitted to hospital. Hospital admission is especially expensive for elderly dementia patients because they tend to stay longer. To compound the problem, they often develop other conditions such as incontinence and pressure sores. This in turn frequently means that when they are discharged, their care needs have increased to the point where they can no longer cope at home. The next step is a prolonged and expensive stay for the rest of their lives in residential care.
The exposure of the scale of these financial figures may well be the evidence needed to persuade the Government to commit more resources to researching accurate early diagnosis. This could then enable sufferers and their supporters to adopt better coping strategies in the early stage of the disease.