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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 00:31 GMT
1.7m 'will have dementia by 2051'
Woman being tested for Alzheimer's
Elderly people are more at risk
More than 1.7 million people in the UK will have dementia by 2051, costing billions of pounds each year, experts have forecast.

The grim projections are based on the most up-to-date evaluation of dementia.

Currently 700,000 - or one person in every 88 in the UK - has dementia, incurring a yearly cost of 17bn.

The government welcomed the London School of Economics and Institute of Psychiatry research, and said dementia care was already a priority.

This research highlights the desperate need for dementia to be made a national priority
Professor Martin Knapp, London School of Economics - report author

The total number of people with dementia in the UK will increase to 940,110 by 2021, they predict.

By 2051 the figure will be 1,735,087 - an increase of 154% from now -, which will mean dementia will affect the lives of around one in three people either as a sufferer, or as a carer or relative.

This is mainly because of the UK's ageing population. However, conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, and lack of exercise are also thought to increase the risk.

One in 20 people over 65 and one in five people over 80 has a form of dementia. Around two thirds of those affected have Alzheimer's disease.

There is no cure for dementia, and those with the condition need increasing care as the disease progresses.

My 89 year old mother is obviously suffering from Dementia and is getting worse by the week
Anthony Darby, London


The researchers' investigations reveal caring for one person with late-onset dementia costs an average of 25,472 per year.

Currently, the bulk of this cost is met by people with dementia and their families.

Two thirds of these people live at home - either alone or with friends or relatives.

They said there were "marked variations" in the levels of provision and spending across the UK, and that care and support is "delivered piecemeal and in an inefficient fashion."

With every second ticking by, dementia costs the UK 539
Neil Hunt, Alzheimer's Society

Professor Martin Knapp, of the London School of Economics, one of the report's authors, said: "This research highlights the desperate need for dementia to be made a national priority.

"Current levels of services and support for people with dementia and carers are clearly inadequate.

"Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life ahead of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, yet funding for dementia research is significantly lower than these other conditions.

"Even delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of related deaths, saving nearly 30,000 lives annually."

'Intolerable strain'

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, added: "With every second ticking by, dementia costs the UK 539. We can't afford to ignore the true cost of dementia to society as a whole.

"We must tackle this huge challenge head on."

"We need to invest in dementia services, research, support and training and use what money is being spent more effectively. Planning now will save lives and money in the future."

He added: "This new research shows that the government is failing to support people with dementia and their carers.

"Dementia will place an intolerable strain on our health and social care system unless the right services and support are in place."

Older people's tsar Professor Ian Philp, who is currently preparing new guidance for local health and social care bodies on early intervention and support for people with dementia, said: "This is a significant report that highlights the key issues around dementia and its economic impact."

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "We've already doubled the research that we're doing on Alzheimer's and just last week, we announced a new investment, for instance, in emergency respite care for carers of people with dementia, which is one of the things that carers particularly told us it was their top priority."

Two drugs companies - Pfizer and Eisai - are currently seeking a judical review with the aim of over-turning a National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) decision not to recommend the use of three drugs for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

NICE ruled that donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine should only be used to treat Alzheimer's once it has progressed to its moderate stages.

A dementia sufferer's relative speaks about the condition

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