Living with dementia
Dementia is a mainly irreversible, progressive degenerative disease affecting 10% of all persons aged 65 years and over, and 40% aged 90 years and over. Patterns of progression and types of symptoms vary widely. Memory impairments are the most common among people with dementia, but there are often also problems in orientation, attention, recognition, executing activities, and speech. Often there are also depressive symptoms, apathy and aggression.
Because dementia cannot yet be cured, people with dementia are dependent on long term care and psychosocial support. The majority of dementia sufferers live in the community and are taken care of by informal carers, e.g., family, relatives, friends or neighbours. The informal care is often supplemented with care from professionals. However, despite this care, not all the needs of people with dementia are met.
A recent survey among community-dwelling persons with dementia showed that they have a range of unmet needs, mainly concerning information about dementia and tailored care, support for memory problems and psychological distress, and maintaiing social contacts [Van der Roest et al., 2009].
It is estimated that 10 million people in Europe and 35.6 million people worldwide have dementia. The number of people affected worldwide is forecasted to be 66 million in 2030 and 115 million in 2050 [Prince and Jackson, 2010].
The risk of moving into dementia increases with age. While dementia cannot be cured, thera can be efforts which are directed at alleviating symptoms and make up for the person's impariements. The aim is to make daily life easier and to enable the best possible quality of life during the different stages of the disease. With the support of close persons and support from social and health services, most people with dementia for a long time manage to live in their own home.
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Financial costs related to dementia
The total worldwide cost associated with dementia care is estimated to be $315 billion and this cost is bound to increase as the numbers of people with dementia increase.
The costs for dementia care are truly enormous, dominating social care expenditure in most countries. The average annual care cost for a person with dementia is 10 000 EUR in Europe, and in some countries much more. With about two percent of the total population suffering from some stage of dementia and increasing to up to 10% in a few years it is clear that these costs add up to tens of billions of Euros each year.
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Dementia and cognitive tools
Assistive technologies are a well-recognised means to support people with dementia in coping with the disease and to contribute to a better quality of life [Topo, 2009; Nugent, 2007; Lauriks et al., 2007].
In Scandinavia use of advanced ICT-based tools for supporting persons with dementia is emerging. According to the national guidelines such use should still be part of clinical trials, but results are expected soon to confirm the efficacy of succh tools. Indeed an early Swedish study in 2010 showed that the society would recover the costs for introducing one such tool in about one year, while local and regional authorities would recover the budgetary spending in about a year and a half. This study was on a less advanced tool than Cogknow Navigator, and did not calculate the financial benefits of delaying the move from living at home to more expensive institutional living.