World Alzheimer’s Month: Importance of national dementia plans

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Dementia is seen as one of the main health and social care challenges of the 21st century. As a result of increasing life expectancy, there is no other disease area where the number of people affected is going up so rapidly.  National dementia plans are needed to prevent a huge strain being placed on healthcare authorities to provide quality care to this increasing population.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and this year’s theme is Dementia: a journey of caring”. The focus is on the care required by people with dementia throughout the course of their condition.

Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy is marking the occasion by publishing a special commentary by Marc Wortmann on the importance of national plans for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Wortmann is  Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the organisation providing a global voice for dementia and the founder of World Alzheimer’s Month.

In his commentary, Wortmann explains the necessity of national dementia plans: “The number of people with dementia was calculated for 2010 at 36 million and with the increasing life expectancy these numbers are estimated to nearly double to 66 million by 2030 and 115 million by the year 2050 and the cost of the disease was estimated at US$604 billion or 1% of global gross domestic product. Therefore, the world needs to prepare for this epidemic. Several countries, including Australia, France, South Korea, UK and USA have already developed national plans and others like Japan, Mexico and Peru are working on it.”

The ten common elements found in most national dementia plans, and the actions that accompany them, are summarised below (more details can be found here):

1. Awareness and education
Launch educational campaigns, helplines, informational websites, dementia-friendly communities and  monitor public attitudes.

2. (Early) diagnosis and treatment
Establish memory clinics and other specific services for early diagnosis, improve use of correct therapeutic treatments.

3. Support at home
Launch cognitive stimulation and rehabilitation programmes and leisure activities to benefit family carers as well as people with dementia.

4. Family caregiver support
Launch support programs in the local community and improve respite care options.

5. Improve institutional care
This will vary between different countries’ health and social care systems but can include specific units for different patient groups or small-scale facilities with more personalised care.

6. Integrated pathways of care and care coordination
Appoint care coordinators or case managers as a single point of contact for families.

7. Innovative technology
Focus attention on how technology can help assist people at home.

8. Training of healthcare staff
Define competencies for dementia care professionals, continue education for these groups and offer dementia training for hospital staff.

9. Monitoring
Can be based on specific indicators in the dementia plan but includes patient outcomes and care quality indicators.

10. Research
Increase current investment in research to save greater expenditure in the future.

ADI monitors existing national plans and is drawing up guidance for other countries to use in the development of their own plans. Find out more about the work of ADI here.

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