Log In

Reset Password

Another View: More than 55 million people living with dementia worldwide

It started with a distinct plan, which is not always the case.

On Feb. 8, the plan was to attend the program titled “Caring For Someone With Dementia,” to be offered at Emmaus Public Library, and share the experience in this space.

Carol Frawley, described in the flier from the library as a representative of Care Patrol, was to speak about “how to better interact with and be a friend to someone with dementia.”

Work on the idea started with some research about dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease International, a federation of national and international associations focused on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, was consulted.

According to ADI’s statistics, someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds and, as of 2020, more than 55 million people were living with dementia worldwide. Expectations are the number will climb to 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050.

Many more may exist, however, since a formal diagnosis may not have been made for many people living with dementia.

Impacts and implications are far reaching.

Economically, for example, researchers determined the cost of dementia was $818 billion in 2015 and anticipated to reach $2.8 trillion by 2030.

The costs included informal care for those with dementia done by family and friends, professional care provided at home and care facilities and direct medical care costs of caring for those with dementia.

Emotional, physical and mental impact for caregivers and those they care for are perhaps not as quantifiable; however, the impact is equally staggering.

Popular culture has taken notice.

Julianne Moore was awarded, among other acting awards, her first Oscar for her portrayal of a literature professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the 2014 film “Still Alice.” The character had just celebrated her 50th birthday.

Mahershala Ali was recognized with an Emmy nomination, among other acting award nominations, for his portrayal of a state police detective dealing with dementia, memory loss and hallucinations as he works on and revisits a case involving missing children in season three of the HBO anthology series “True Detective.”

PBS viewers and mystery fans may be familiar with the “Wallander” detective series featuring protagonist Kurt Wallander, whose memory problems render him unable to continue work as a detective by the end of the book series. With more than 55 million worldwide living with dementia as of 2020 and numbers rising every three seconds, chances are many of us know, will know or may become someone with dementia, which is where the program at the library comes back into the frame.

Unfortunately, the program was postponed; however, I am on the list for when it is rescheduled.

There is a personal motive.

No stranger to dementia within the specific world of immediate and extended family, an encounter while getting a haircut changed everything.

As I left the salon, a woman approached me. She seemed anxious and reported someone left her there and she didn’t know how she would get home. Not knowing what to do, I told the salon’s owner about what the woman said and, thinking that a good strategy, left. Surely, the salon owner knew the woman who also seemed to be a customer and whether someone would return and take her home.

I later told my sister about the encounter in a phone call.

Wisely, she offered this advice.

“You could have offered to sit with her on the bench there (outside the salon) and wait with her,” she said.

In other words, I could have been the anxious woman’s friend, if only for a short time and eased her concerns.

Looking back on the encounter in that moment with my sister on the phone, I recalled seeing some of the things mentioned to watch for in family members with dementia: anxiety, confusion and fear.

I could have offered to sit with the woman on the bench outside the salon and wait.

I hope Carol Frawley and others will reveal similar strategies to help care for someone with dementia in the wider world as they visit local libraries, community groups, religious congregations and elsewhere.

And thanks to my sister for, as usual, teaching me a lesson.

April Peterson

editorial assistant

East Penn Press

Salisbury Press