Dementia set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer


More than 25.5 million people around the world are dying each year with serious physical and psychological suffering caused by disease, injury or illness, according to a major new report published in The Lancet today.

The Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief has provided the first global estimates of serious, health-related suffering and the subsequent need for palliative care and pain relief. The report authors devised a novel approach to measure health-related suffering, analysing 20 life threatening and life-limiting health condtions – including dementia, cancer and heart disease – and 15 corresponding symptoms, such as pain, anxiety and depression.

The authors have developed a package of palliative care services – including medicines, equipment and staffing models- that should be made available by health systems worldwide.

Andrew Boaden, Senior Policy Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: Dementia is often overlooked as a terminal condition – but it is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. More needs to be done to ensure the right support is in place at the right time so that people in the later stages of dementia can be as comfortable and dignified as possible.

“This report indicates low to middle income countries face huge challenges for adequate palliative care for people with dementia, but the UK is by no means a shining example. It is degrading and frankly cruel that people with dementia are facing end of life in chronic pain because the care system is failing to meet their needs.

“Health and care professionals must unite to support people with dementia throughout their care journey. The option of palliative care should be made available to all those with a dementia diagnosis.”


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