How Policymakers Around the World Are Planning for a Dementia Surge

By | April 24th, 2024

From national dementia plans to policies that make Alzheimer’s treatments and long-term care more affordable, countries around the world are stepping up to address an anticipated increase in dementia prevalence in the coming decades.

According to the 2020 Lancet Commission report, the number of people living with dementia worldwide will almost triple in the coming decades, from 57 million in 2019 to more than 153 million in 2050 due to an aging population. Many countries are trying to get ahead of that problem by introducing legislation and policies that can address some of these oncoming challenges.

Many countries have adopted ambitious national plans to address dementia. Other national and local policies that are enacted or being proposed aim to make living with dementia safer and care more accessible.

Implementing national dementia plans

In 2017, the World Health Organization set out an ambitious global action plan, urging 75 percent of its member states or 146 countries to develop a tailored public health response to dementia. Lewis Arthuton, communications and policy manager for Alzheimer’s Disease International, explained that these plans provide treatment, care, and support for people with dementia as well as their caregivers, as well as tackling the issue at a wider scale. 

“National Dementia Plans should and must tackle the complex nature of dementia, from awareness raising and challenging stigma, through to diagnosis, treatment, care, support, including crucial support for carers, plus research and risk reduction strategies,” he told Being Patient.

As of early 2024, 50 countries around the world have instituted national dementia plans — Alzheimer’s Disease International is now calling for a 10-year extension to the action plan to ensure that more countries implement these plans. 

Training law enforcement and first responders in dementia awareness

In July 2020, Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman living with dementia, left a store without paying for roughly $14 of goods. Police officers assaulted her on her way home from a store. The video was captured on body cams, leading to a public backlash. 

The case encouraged police departments to seek dementia awareness training, although this was not legally mandated. 

Colorado, Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Virginia, and West Virginia have dementia training requirements for law enforcement, according to Justice in Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association. Alaska, Connecticut, Louisiana, New York and Virginia require other first responders like EMTs to receive similar training. New laws being proposed in Kansas and Ohio might soon require first responders to get this training as well.

Making dementia care more affordable

There are also laws and policies being enacted around the world that make dementia care affordable. 

In 2008, South Korea first introduced legislation providing public long-term care insurance, which provides a monthly benefit and coverage for other services for older individuals who develop health problems like dementia. This ensures that the aging population can access and afford the support and resources they need to continue living at home or in long-term care. 

In the US, policies are also being proposed to make care more affordable. In March 2023, lawmakers introduced the Comprehensive Care for Alzheimer’s Act, making it easier for patients to coordinate care between their entire team of providers without breaking the bank. Rather than paying for each individual service, the Act proposes that patients pay one fee per year to access their whole caregiving team.

Providing more resources for caregivers

Norway provides extensive support to dementia caregivers. This includes educational programs and caregiving schools to help people learn how to care for their loved ones. The country also requires all cities and municipalities to offer caregivers options to drop off their loved one at a care home for a few days of the week and activities for people with dementia.

In the U.S., the Administration for Community Living (ACL) is charged with delivering caregiving support programs to local communities. They have recently updated their regulations to make caregivers of people with dementia under 60 eligible to access these resources as well. The ACL is also implementing its first National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers to improve support at a federal and state level.

An executive order issued by the Biden Administration on April 18th, 2023, also focuses on improving support for caregivers, empowering government agencies “to make all efforts to improve jobs and support for caregivers, increase access to affordable care for families, and provide more care options for families.” 

Although countries around the world are all taking different steps to manage the growing burden of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, these efforts focus on similar issues — training first responders, making care more affordable, and providing key support to caregivers.

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2 thoughts on “How Policymakers Around the World Are Planning for a Dementia Surge

  1. The problem with modern medicine is the core issue isn’t being addressed. Dementia including Alzheimer’s is metabolic, a lifestyle caused illness. Many new age doctors are realizing this. Sugar, processed foods and the total lack of exercise is the culprit. Let’s practice prevention and quit promoting useless drugs.

    1. Thanks for reading! There is a scientific consensus that lifestyle factors are indeed associated with dementia risk, including risk of Alzheimer’s! Though we must note that scientists are still unsure, on whole, what causes Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia — and there are a number of factors that appear to drive risk just as much as lifestyle factors, including — in some cases — genetics, other health conditions, other lifestyle factors… Research into diet and the impacts of sugar and processed foods is ongoing and we’ll continue to report on new, gold-standard studies as they are published — as we will on innovations in treatment.

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