Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Dementia in the UK – How to understand dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term for progressive brain disorders marked by memory problems, personality changes and impaired cognitive function. In the early stages, people may be confused, have difficulty remembering things, and be unable to do everyday tasks. Dementia is a terminal condition.

Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent type of dementia, affecting 62 per cent of people diagnosed. Vascular dementia (17 per cent) and mixed dementia (10 per cent) are variants of the disease. Dementia is thus a significant cause of disability in later life, ahead of cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. However, we spend less on dementia than on these other conditions.

Dementia in the UK

How common is dementia?

In the UK, there are 850,000 people experiencing dementia. Figures are projected to grow to over 1 million by 2025, and to rise to 2 million by 2051.

225,000 will be diagnosed this year - one person every three minutes.

In care homes, 70 per cent of residents have severe memory problems or dementia.

What are the costs?

In addition to the personal toll on those living with dementia and their families, dementia has a huge impact upon the economy, The cost of dementia care extends across three sectors.

  • Healthcare: these costs are borne by the NHS and are a result of hospitalisation of those with dementia.
  • Social care: refers to services such as nursing homes, home care and respite care.
  • Informal care: relates to the unpaid care provided by family and friends.

Most dementia care costs are due to informal care at £11.6bn (44.2%), while social care costs £10.3bn (39%) and healthcare 4.3bn (16.4%), Overall, the cost is greater than 26bn.

The burden, therefore, falls on those with dementia and their families, who save the UK economy £11.6 billion per year. Carers do a difficult job and may need support when looking after a loved one.


Dementia research is poorly funded. For each person with dementia, the yearly cost to the economy is greater than £30,000, yet only £90 per annum gets spent on dementia research.

Women and dementia

It is more common for women to be diagnosed with dementia. This is in part due to women’s longer life expectancy.

Dementia in the UK

Age and dementia

You are more likely to develop dementia as you age. Among those aged 65 to 69, two out of 100 have dementia, while among those aged between 85 to 89 the figure is one in five.

However, dementia is not solely a condition of old age. Around 42,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the UK.

Treatment and prognosis

Staff at a memory clinic can assess and treat those with dementia, and may provide signposting to other services as appropriate.

Those living with dementia often want to stay independent living in their own homes. However, as the disease progresses, live-in care or a nursing home may be the best option. A firm such as Guardian Carers can offer a skilled assessment and tailor care to your unique needs.

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