Dementia is the next big health and social crisis the world will have to face after COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), with numbers set to soar in the
coming years. Predicted numbers by 2050 are 44% higher than estimates just over a decade ago.

Dementia NZ is urging the government to make dementia a national health
priority now as it is predicted a staggering 100,000 Kiwis will be affected by dementia in 10 years’ time (2030).

In light of World Alzheimer’s Day, which takes place on 21 September and is part of World Alzheimer’s Month, Dementia NZ is encouraging the ‘team of five million’ to unite for dementia in the same way it has against COVID-19.

Kiwis can donate $3 by texting the word ‘UNITE’ to 2449 during the month of September. Every dollar raised is a dollar for dementia – it directly strengthens the ability to deliver services across the country including the organisation’s community dementia advisers, carer education programmes and the newly launched 0800 national support line.

“Just like many NGOs around the country, we have felt the weight of COVID-19 on our
ability to get the funding we need to address the ever growing community of people affected by dementia,” says Jocelyn Weatherall, Chair of Dementia New Zealand.

“We are tackling dementia $3 at a time, one call at a time and people with dementia need your help.”

Despite many advances in the understanding of dementia over the past century, New
Zealand is still struggling against stigma.

“Unlike COVID-19, dementia is the curve we can’t flatten,” says Lisa Burns, GM of Marketing at Dementia NZ. “But we can talk about dementia to help break the cycle of stigma and fear associated with it, as well as raise the vital funding our local dementia teams need to deliver support services to all those affected by the condition.”

Dementia is one of the longest terminal illnesses, spanning on average 8 to 10 years. A
diagnosis can be traumatic, distressing and often there are no follow-up appointments or support offered. This is at odds with other serious health conditions like heart disease or cancer where there is a programme of care, intervention and support involved.

“This year has only highlighted the challenges for people living with dementia and their need for support,” says Burns.

“This second wave of COVID-19 hit particularly hard, with many people who are living with dementia going into it already feeling disconnected, confused, and scared.”

Due to our ageing population in New Zealand, the number of Kiwis diagnosed with dementia is expected to more than triple by 2050, having an impact on four out of five people and costing the economy $5 billion a year.

“This is not an issue that can be ignored any longer, it is becoming vital that the government recognises dementia as a national health priority,” says Burns.

Anyone concerned about changes in memory or dementia are encouraged to get in touch with their GP, health professional or call 0800 433 636.

For more information on the campaign, visit the website dementia-itstime.nz

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