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Ahead of World Alzheimer's Day, the German government's statistics office released figures showing that hospitalizations and deaths had more than doubled in the past two decades as the country ages.
Most Alzheimer's deaths occur at very advanced ages, a demographic that is rapidly growing in Germany
More and more people in Germany are requiring hospital treatment as a result of Alzheimer's disease, the government's statistics agency Destatis said on Tuesday.
Information released ahead of World Alzheimer's Day, on September 21 this year, showed 19,356 instances of people requiring hospital care as a result of Alzheimer's in 2020. That's more than double the 8,116 cases in 2000, an increase of 138.5%.
Destatis noted that the figures could include duplication, should any patients have been hospitalized twice or more in the same year for the same given reason.
Of the people admitted to hospital in 2020, Destatis said that 41.5% were men and 58.5% were women.
The development in the number of deaths attributed to Alzheimer's over the past two decades in Germany was very similar.
In total in 2020, 9,450 people died as a result of Alzheimer's, the highest figure on record for a single year. In 2000, the figure stood at 4,535, less than half 2020's total.
According to the German society for Alzheimer's sufferers, of the estimated 1.8 million people in Germany with some form of diagnosed dementia, roughly two-thirds have Alzheimer's, the most common form.
"The increase in hospital treatment cases and deaths with an Alzheimer's diagnosis is at least partly attributable to an ever-aging population," Destatis said of the statistics.
Well over half of the hospital cases in 2020 — 11,188 out of 19,356 — involved people aged 80 or over; only 1,026 cases were recorded among people 65 or younger.
Germany's aging population means the country has more pensioners than ever before. The number of people aged 65 or more rose by roughly 33% between 2000 and 2020, reaching 18.3 million.
Meanwhile, the statistics are even more startling for over-80s. That demographic grew by more than 90% in the past two decades, reaching 5.9 million by 2020.
The entire world is expected to witness similar rises in Alzheimer's and dementia numbers in the coming decades as life expectancy increases, with the sharpest percentage increases eventually likely in less developed countries.
Care professionals also warn that hospital stays can be dangerous for Alzheimer's patients or people struggling with other forms of dementia.
Eugen Brych, the chairman of the German Foundation for the Protection of Patients (Deutsche Stiftung Patientenschutz), said that the strange environment, lacking care, waiting times and general hustle and bustle could exacerbate patients' anxieties.
"A hospital stay often also leads to the affected people suffering from more pronounced disorientation and agitation," Brych said, calling on care facilities to adapt to better treat the growing numbers of such patients.
In particular, he recommended that hospitals permit someone close to the patient to accompany them, and that they employ specialists trained to accompany dementia patients. "That would also reduce the burden on other care and medical professionals," Brych said.
msh/jcg (dpa, KNA)
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