Thursday, November 20, 2014

Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 9

“Brain Failure”

Forty million people world-wide have some form of what Dr. Sube Banerjee of Brighton & Sussex Medical School calls “brain failure” – more commonly dubbed dementia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global dementia prevalence doubling time at twenty years – from 35.6 million in 2010 to 115.4 million in 2050.

Sadly, many Gen ‘Y'ers’ will become the fodder for Gen ‘D’… the Dementia Generation.

The burden of "brain failure" is being acutely felt by global economies.

The current annual global cost of caring for dementia patients’ dependence & disability tops $600 billion, or 1% of global GDP. Dr. Banarjee notes that this “bucket of money” exceeds that being spent on more cost-effective killers – cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Previous posts have introduced you to a political leader who died of Alzheimer’s disease.

You may have a relative who is afflicted or who has succumbed to some type of progressive illness that has sapped cherished memories and cognitive functions. The fear of such a terrifying neurological decline contributed to the world’s greatest comic, Robin Williams, tragically taking his own life.

For centuries, doctors have studied other organ failures.

Heart, liver, kidney, bone marrow, and pancreas failure research have led to new medicines and to the capacity to safely transplant failed organs with healthier donor organs that prolong and improve lives.

But “brain failure” is a medical brick wall – essentially untreatable and uniformly terminal. There is no near-term likelihood of solid organ brain transplantation, although stem cell therapies hold great promise for regeneration of selective areas of damaged neurological tissue.

Dementia patients stay at home to avoid the confusion & panic of being out in the world.

Their unspent disposable income impacts the economy. The British have calculated that the unspent “dementia pound” amounted to £11 billion in 2014, and project that this figure will double to £23 billion by 2030. Financial institutions recognize the risk of dementia, betting that memory chip & personal pin cards will allow customers to bank independently for longer.

Dementia disrespects the boundaries between health care and social services.

The U.K. Alzheimer's Society has created 'dementia friendly communities' where taxi company employees are trained to recognize confusion and panic attacks among their customers. U.K. prime minister David Cameron launched a Challenge on Dementia to improve care and fund research.

Whether your granny calls a taxi at 1 AM to get to breakfast with old friends, or your president can't recall the name of his secretary of state, our world's security - writ small or large - is at risk.   

So wear your wrist watch upside-down... and pray.

The Square can be a unfamiliar, scary place.

No comments:

Post a Comment