Last reviewed 16 May 2022

The number of individuals with dementia continues to rise. In the UK there are currently around 900,000 with the disease. It is projected by 2025 there will be over one million, potentially increasing to around 1.6 million in 2040. Dementia Action Week, which this year runs from 16 to 22 May, aims to raise awareness and encourage people to “act on dementia”.

The figures above, announced in December 2021, reveal the increasing scale and impact of dementia but are based on numbers of individuals aged over 65. There is currently little research or data on estimated numbers for under 65-year-olds with the disease, so more research is urgently needed in younger age groups to enable current and future care needs to be met. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, in 2021, rates in dementia diagnosis fell to a five-year low, by up to 50% in comparison to previous years due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not everyone with dementia has a definitive diagnosis, and it is important the total number of individuals with dementia can be gauged, both with or without a diagnosis. It is thought there are around 400,000 people in the UK undiagnosed who have dementia, but do not formally know it.

By raising awareness, it is hoped more individuals will come forward and be diagnosed earlier, allowing them more time to come to terms with future symptoms and potentially access earlier interventions and treatment options.

Dementia Action Week — theme for 2022

Dementia Awareness Week is supported by the Alzheimer's Society, a UK charity which provides support and research for those affected by dementia.

Every year the Alzheimer’s Society work with individuals and organisations across the UK to encourage people to “act on dementia” and this national event sees the UK public taking action to improve the lives of those affected by dementia.

The theme this year is diagnosis and the 2022 campaign runs from 16 to 22 May.

The Alzheimer’s Society would like to encourage individuals who might be living with or close to someone who may be living with undiagnosed dementia to:

  • be able to recognise potential dementia symptoms

  • feel more empowered and able to take the next step

  • present themselves so they can access support and guidance

  • improve the diagnostic process for themselves and for healthcare professionals.

Research findings from the Alzheimer’s Society demonstrate the misconception around memory loss being simply a sign of normal ageing as the greatest barrier against individuals seeking a dementia diagnosis.

Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be very daunting, but it is considered to be better for individuals and their families/carers to know, as backed up by 91% of those individuals affected by dementia.

Materials to support the Action Week are available via the Dementia Action Week section on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

The Alzheimer’s Society can offer practical advice and information on next steps and what to expect during and after dementia diagnosis.

Dementia Friends

As part of activities to support Dementia Action Week, some areas are offering additional face-to-face opportunities to undertake training to become a Dementia Friend.

The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends initiative was established in 2013 to tackle the stigma and lack of understanding which means many individuals with the disease can face, including isolation and social exclusion.

There are differing ways to become a Dementia Friend, either in person, by watching a video or free virtual information sessions which are open to anyone wanting to help those with dementia in their community. Find more details on the initiative and how to sign up here.

Covid-19 and dementia

The Covid-19 pandemic situation continues to influence everyone, particularly those affected by dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society offers information about vaccines, tests and treatment for coronavirus, including rehabilitation for Long Covid.

Even though social distancing is no longer a legal requirement, it may be that information has to be repeated while out with the individual with dementia to remind them why we need to continue to be safe. A short video is available to support those helping someone with dementia when out that can be accessed via the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Research findings

There is much ongoing new dementia research; a few of the key finding so far in 2022 include the following.

  • Blood biomarkers to predict dementia prior to symptoms developing have been discovered in new research which may help identify individuals with the earliest signs of dementia even before the onset of symptoms. It is hoped this will increase potential for both treatment and development of medication.

  • A major new international study involving UK Dementia Research Institute researchers identifying 75 genes associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, including 42 new genes which were not previously associated with the condition.

  • Some early signs are that an Alzheimer's drug may be able to be used in the future to improve memory in individuals with Down’s syndrome and normal ageing have been discovered. The drug Sargramostim (GM-CSF) is the first to show memory improvement in Alzheimer's patients in a phase II clinical trial. Individuals with Down’s syndrome have increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease and previous work showed that GM-CSF improves cognition and brain pathology in Alzheimer's disease patients.