Number of persons with dementia expected to double by 2050, experts say

Experts who spoke at a national conference on dementia called for more to be done to keep persons suffering from the disease in the communities they were raised

The number of people living with dementia is expected to double by 2050
The number of people living with dementia is expected to double by 2050

Malta currently has 7,000 patients suffering from dementia with the figure expected to double by 2050 said Charles Scerri an academic at the University of Malta and an advisor to the government on matters related to the condition.

He said the World Health Organization classifies dementia as one of the main causes of elderly individuals’ dependence on others, explaining that as the disease progresses, those affected are unable to care for themselves and will inevitably require assistance in their day to day life.

Scerri was speaking at the first National conference on dementia held in Parliament today which saw a number of stakeholders discuss different facets of dementia in Malta.

In 2015, 6,000 people, around 1.5% of the population of Malta had dementia. A forecast shows that by 2030, it will increase to 9,000, 2% of the population of Malta.

“Last year, the world spent a trillion dollars on dementia,” he said. “We need to make it a priority so that those affected can be kept on living in the communities where they were raised.”

‘Dementia’ is the term used to describe a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Addressing the conference, Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon said that dementia did not only impact single individuals but the entire country, adding that thousands of people’s lives were affected on a daily basis.

Scerri said that studies had shown that the brain of a person with dementia could have up to 25% less brain matter. He said the current life expectancy for someone living with dementia is between eight to 12 years from when the first systems begin to emerge. Scerri said that such conditions did not progress at the same rate in all people.

Some, he said, could see it progress very slowly while in others deterioration could be a lot more rapid.

As it stands, he said that the younger the person is the faster the progression of the disease.

Considerable investment for dementia care at St Vincent de Paul  

St Vincent de Paul CEO Josianne Cutajar said that a considerable investment would be funnelled into refurbishments work on specialised dementia treatment facilities at the home.

She said the investment would see bed capacity increase by up to 20% over two wards. Furthermore, she said there would be an increase in services as well as the setting up of an online portal to provide relatives and carers with the necessary information about the home’s services.

The government also announced at the conference, that a 10-week training course has been set up for people within the community, including family members of persons suffering from dementia. 

The conference was addressed by the Minister for the Family, and Children's Rights Social Solidarity Michael Falzon, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabled and Active Aging Anthony Agiuis Decelis, and MPs Ivan Bartolo, Robert Cutajar, Rosianne Cutajar, Maria Deguara, Silvio Grixti and Stephen Spiteri.