The growing number of Scots living well into old age has made dementia “the biggest health and social care challenge” faced by society, a charity has warned.
Deaths in Scotland from Alzheimer’s disease rose by 10.5 per cent last year to 1,963, despite a 10 per cent fall in other dementia-related deaths to 3,603, according to official figures released by the National Records of Scotland.
Alzheimer’s, a degenerative and incurable condition, is thought to cause around 50 to 70 per cent of all dementia cases. Symptoms include impaired thought, impaired speech, and confusion.
Dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms, including impaired thinking and memory, that can be caused by issues other than Alzheimer’s such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
There are around 90,000 people living with dementia in Scotland and it is estimated that 20,000 people will be diagnosed with the condition each year by 2020.
The Scottish Government is due to publish a National Dementia Strategy in the coming weeks.
Amy Dalrymple, head of policy at Alzheimer Scotland, said: “Dementia is the biggest health and social care challenge faced by society today.
“The rise in the number of deaths recorded could also be attributed to more accurate recordings of death due to the illness. We welcome this move as this will help us further understand the scale and challenge of dementia.
“Scotland has been at the forefront of improving support for people newly diagnosed with dementia, through the Scottish Government’s one year guarantee of Post Diagnostic Support, based on a model developed by Alzheimer Scotland.
“Going forward we will continue to work with, the Scottish Government and partners to ensure timely and consistently high quality post-diagnostic support is available for every person who receives a diagnosis across Scotland. Good experiences of post-diagnostic support means a better future for people with dementia, more independence and a better quality of life.
“Overall, the figures released by the National Records of Scotland is a stark reminder that dementia remains a public health priority at a Scottish, UK and global level. We need much more research into the causes of dementia, treatments and supports that allow people to live well with dementia as well as the prevention and cure of dementia.”
The Scottish Conservatives have said they will launch a Holyrood member’s bill in the summer to introduce the so-called Frank’s Law, named after former Dundee United footballer Frank Kopel, who died in 2014.
It calls for free care for dementia patients to be extended to those under the age of 65.
Mr Kopel’s wife, Amanda, has been campaigning for a change in the law.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As more people live longer, dementia has become more common as the risk of this disease increases with age.
“We will publish a third National Dementia Strategy shortly, which will include a major focus on palliative and end of life care for people with dementia.
“Those newly diagnosed are entitled to a year’s worth of post-diagnostic support, co-ordinated by a named and appropriately trained staff.
“For people with a diagnosis, support will help the person and their carers to adjust to and understand their particular type of dementia, and to plan early for future care options and connect better to the range of clinical and non-clinical dementia services.”