September is World Alzheimer’s Month™, a global campaign to raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding dementia. September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day, and Alzheimer’s associations in more than 60 countries will be taking part in this year’s campaign.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of symptoms that occur when brain cells cease working properly, damaging the brain. It is a progressive condition that can affect memory, thinking, recognition, language, planning, behaviour and personality. Most kinds of dementia have similar symptoms, including memory loss, problems with thinking and planning, difficulty performing familiar or routine tasks, difficulties with language and finding the right words, problems with recognising people or objects, and changes in personality.
There are over 100 different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause, accounting for 50 to 60% of all cases. Other types include vascular dementia following a stroke or strokes, dementia with Lewy bodies, and fronto-temporal dementia. There is currently no cure.
What they all have in common is that eventually people with dementia are unable to care for themselves and need help with all facets of daily life, either by professionals or more commonly from other family members. Dementia knows no social, economic or ethnic boundaries, and thus has a profound impact on all cultures and societies.
Today, over 46 million people globally are thought to be living with dementia. It is estimated that every 3.2 seconds, somebody somewhere develops dementia, adding 9.9 million new cases a year. At this rate, the number of people affected will have risen to 74.7 million by 2030 and over 131 million by 2050.
One of the triumphs of the last century was a vastly improved life expectancy. One of the challenges of this century will be managing what is potentially the most significant health crisis brought on by this very success. Up to the age of 65, one out of 1,000 people will develop dementia. Past 65, this figure rises to one in 20, and past 80 a staggering one in five will develop dementia. Most of these people will live in low or middle income countries. Countries ill-equipped to deal with the issue.
Today, the global cost of dementia is estimated to be a phenomenal US $818 billion, ranking it the world’s 17th largest economy comfortably ahead of number 16, the Netherlands. By 2018, it’s expected to become a trillion dollar disease.
How does this affect your company or brand? Plenty of research has been conducted that clearly demonstrate that employee well-being has a direct impact on your bottom line. Physical and mental wellbeing of employees are the key factors in determining productivity, worker retention, healthcare costs and company profits. Healthy and happy employees basically cost less to employ.
If the statistics alone have not engaged you take a moment to walk in the shoes of someone living with dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK has created a virtual reality app that simulates dementia. “A Walk Through Dementia” is an Android-exclusive Google Cardboard app designed to for users to experience what life is actually like in order to help people understand it.
Dementia in all likelihood will impact every one of us in some way. If it hasn’t already then you’re lucky. If you have, then perhaps this highly emotive ad from Alzheimer’s Portugal will resonate. It does for me!