FRAIL: Researchers from King’s College London forecast that dementia will claim 219 409 victims every
Dementia is set to become Britain's biggest killer, with experts warning that deaths from the condition will overtake those from cancer by 2040.

The figure is set to almost quadruple as an ageing population becomes ever more vulnerable to conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

Cancer currently kills more than double the people who die from dementia every year. But researchers from King's College London forecast that dementia will creep ahead to claim 219409 victims every year within 25 years. Their figures show it will also kill more people than cardiovascular disease and organ failure. They are calling for the NHS to "act now" to provide palliative care for elderly patients.

Professor Irene Higginson, director of the Cicely Saunders Institute at King's College and co-author of the paper, said: “Both cancer and dementia are increasing. Dementia is increasing faster, partly because of the ageing population and partly because there are fewer treatments for it.”

Rob Burley of the Alzheimer's Society added: “Dementia is set to be the 21st century's biggest killer. It is the only leading cause of death that we can't cure, prevent or slow down.”

The ageing population is behind the rise in dementia, which kills people from the damage it causes in their brains. As we all live longer, the number of over-85s needing palliative care is set to more than double from 2014 to 2040, with dementia striking most people in old age.

For the study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, experts analysed mortality statistics for England and Wales from 2006 to 2014. They concluded that cancer deaths will rise from 143638 to 208636 deaths by 2040.

However, deaths from dementia are projected to outstrip this, soaring from 59199 to 219409 over the same period. Rising deaths from the condition will contribute to a rocketing number of people who will need end-of-life care.

Currently, around 75% of people in their final days need palliative care, but that figure will hit 90% by 2040 as the elderly battle multiple complex diseases, often including dementia and cancer at the same time.

Professor Higginson said: “Palliative care provides relief from pain and suffering. People can be given morphine to help with pain and breathlessness, which many suffer at the end of life, with emotional and social support for those affected, to help them live as well as possible.”

Commenting on the study, Simon Jones, from the charity Marie Curie, which provides care and support for people with terminal illnesses, said: “We need to radically rethink how we care for people at the end of their lives, to ensure everyone gets the range of support they need, when they need it. We need to start that process now, before we reach crisis point.”

Meanwhile, Tom Leonard reports that tracking devices could be worn by elderly dementia sufferers to help find them if they wander off.

Contained in a necklace, bracelet or key ring, the technology would pinpoint the location of vulnerable pensioners within seconds.

Police say a significant number of the 44000 cases of people who go missing every year in the capital are dementia-related "wander walkers" and have launched a Safer Walking campaign to promote the GPS technology. They also urged local authorities responsible for caring for vulnerable elderly people to consider the devices, which costs £40 (R700) for their safety.

Chief Superintendent Steve Wallace, who is leading the Met’s campaign, accepted there were privacy concerns and that the devices were not "a substitute for good care and support". But, he said, the problem of "wander walkers" was getting worse and society had to "do something about it". - Daily Mail