Millions with dementia "struggle to get support"

Thu Oct 1, 2009 9:18am EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Millions of people suffering with dementia are often left without care or support until their illness reaches crisis point, according to a report on Thursday on the ethical dilemmas of the brain-wasting disease.

The report by a British medical ethics group criticized health authorities for failing to take a broader view of dementia and called for more focus on easing the daily problems it poses for those who have it, and those who care for them.

Alzheimer's Disease International predicted last week that more than 35 million people around the world will suffer from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia in 2010. That number is expected to almost double every 20 years, to 66 million in 2030 and more than 115 million in 2050.

"Often people can get help with their medical problems, but there is not the same help available to deal with the ethical and moral problems they face," said Tony Hope, chairman of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' working party on dementia and a professor of medical ethics at Oxford University.

The Nuffield report drew a comparison between cancer care 20 years ago and dementia care now. It said that with rapidly aging populations, health authorities needed to refocus their approach to recognize dementia's huge impact.

"It is not considered acceptable to make people with cancer wait until crisis point before getting support, and people with dementia should not have to wait either," it said.

SHOULD I LIE? OR LOCK HIM IN?

"It is often the little things that are the most distressing," Rhona Knight, a family doctor and member of the committee, told reporters.   Continued...