VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis appealed Wednesday for greater support for people suffering from Alzheimer's and their carers, saying those with the disease were often abused.
Sufferers "are often victims of violence, mistreatment and abuse that crushes their dignity," Francis said during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, in a message to mark World Alzheimer's Day on September 21.
"Let us pray for the conversion of hearts, and for those affected by Alzheimer's, for their families and for those who care for them lovingly," he said.
Someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds, according to the 2018 World Alzheimer Report.
There were an estimated 50 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2017 -- a number that will almost double every 20 years, reaching 131.5 million in 2050, it said.
The World Health Organization puts the number even higher, at 152 million by 2050.
In May it released its first guidelines on reducing the risk, including healthy eating, regular exercise and not smoking.
Dementia is caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities.
Around five to eight percent of people over the age of 60 are afflicted with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
Francis also prayed for people with cancer, "so that they too may be increasingly supported, both in the prevention and in the treatment of this disease."