Dementia claims more lives in England and Wales than any other condition, new research shows. Data released by the government reveals that the neurological disorder is responsible for more deaths than heart disease or any other serious illness.
Figures disclosed for 2015 brought this trend to light and as the information for 2016 is published, it’s apparent that things have not changed. For the second year in a row, dementia is the biggest threat to human life in this country.
Of all the deaths registered in England and Wales in 2016, some 62,948 were as a result of dementia. This equates to 12 per cent of the total, highlighting how widespread the condition actually is and why the development of a cure is so important.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), women are more likely to die from dementia than men. In 2016, there were 41,747 female deaths, compared to the 21,201 male deaths. This discrepancy has been attributed to the fact that it is a condition usually associated with the elderly and females tend to outlive males.
Over-65s are thought to be more at risk of dementia, because of increased blood pressure and the way the immune system changes as it ages. Death rates from the condition have more than doubled in the last five years and, as other illnesses have received better treatments, advances in medical care for dementia has remained largely unchanged.
Another explanation for the increased number of recorded dementia deaths, could be down to doctors becoming better at diagnosing the condition. Understanding dementia better is the first step in looking for a cure and has additional benefits when it comes to monitoring the situation.
Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “Prime minister Theresa May wants to correct the burning injustices in modern society: the frightening figures today further reinforce that dementia is one of society’s most burning injustices, and defeating it must be a priority for her government.
“As well as being a leading cause of death, research has also shown that dementia is one of the key reasons for life expectancy increases slowing.”
It’s not just lives being cut short that is the problem, but also the way that dementia impacts on quality of life too. Memory loss, the inability to perform everyday tasks, disorientation and mood swings can all make it hard for those affected to function normally.
Many families try and deal with the fallout of an elderly relative with dementia, but often require professional help, as it is a specialised area that has many pitfalls. Care homes with trained staff can help ease the pressure and ensure that the family member is safe and well looked after.
There are also apps and homeware collections that have been developed to help carers ensure a living space is well-adapted for those with dementia. Until a cure is found, these are the best ways to help sufferers live independently for as long as possible.