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Dementia to drive global leap in number of elderly needing care

LONDON (Reuters) - A global rise in cases of the mind-robbing Alzheimer's disease is creating a chronic shortage of carers, with the number of old people dependent on care set to nearly treble to 277 million by 2050, according to a report by a leading dementia charity.

Half of all older people who need personal care have dementia, the report by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) said, and governments should make dementia a priority by implementing national plans and starting urgent debate on how to ensure long-term care for future generations.

Alzheimer's is a fatal brain disease that has no cure and few effective treatments. It affects memory, thinking and behavior and is placing an increasingly heavy burden on societies and economies across the world.

Even now, the worldwide cost of dementia care is more than $600 billion, or around 1.0 percent of global gross domestic product, and that can only increase, ADI's report said.

As the world population ages, the traditional system in the United States, Europe and around the world of "informal" care by family, friends, and community will require much greater support, it said.

Globally, 13 percent of people aged 60 or over currently require long-term care. But between 2010 and 2050, the total number of older people with care needs will nearly treble from 101 to 277 million, according to the report.

Martin Prince, a professor at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry and author of the report, said health and social care authorities needed to recognize quickly that "people with dementia have special needs".

"Compared with other long-term care users they need more personal care, more hours of care, and more supervision, all of which is associated with greater strain on caregivers, and higher costs," he said in a statement.

"Their needs for care start early in the disease course, and evolve constantly over time, requiring advanced planning, monitoring, and coordination."

ADI says research budgets for work on dementia, its causes, treatment and care, need to increase ten-fold to mitigate the impact of the rise in cases.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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