It is no news that dementia is a very costly condition. Typically, most of the costs involved in dementia refer to informal care, which is most often carried out by the family of the person living with dementia at their home. These costs can be extremely high, both economical and emotional. Carers often incur in depression, anxiety, impact on their social network and work patterns, and morbidity. But just how much money is being spent on, and how much time is dedicated to, informal care globally?
A very recent report by Alzheimer’s Disease International calculated just that, and the results are striking. The global costs for dementia today are estimated to be over one trillion US$ per year. Of all those costs only 20% are related to the medical sector, while 40% are related to the social care sector, and another 40% are related to informal care.
The costs are, however, distributed in a highly uneven way, with 87% of total cost occurring in high level countries. Informal care constituted 69% of total cost in low income countries, while it accounted for 38% of total cost in high income countries. However, we know that the majority of people living with dementia come from low income countries (roughly 60%).
This means that less resources are being used in the settings that would need those resources the most.
The report also estimates the time dedicate to informal care globally: annually, 82 billion hours are dedicated to providing informal care to people living with dementia at home. With an estimate of roughly 2089 hours per person living with dementia, or 6 hours per day. This effectively translated in more of 40 million full time workers today, a figure expected to grow to 65 million in 2030.
Another unsettling fact is that women seem to be disproportionally women, who are the ones informally taking care of the person living with dementia in 71% of case, once again with the biggest proportion being in low income countries.
These are important and significant numbers, which tell a lot about how much there is left to be done with regards to dementia care.
Wimo, A., Gauthier, S., (2018), Global estimates of informal care, Alzheimer’s Disease International & Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm).