The Alzheimer Europe group, a 30 year old umbrella organization for dementia, released an updated policy overview about dementia, in which they described the key challenges of formulating dementia-based policy and recommended future actions.
Since 2000, several research consortia have been established to estimate the prevalence of dementia in Europe. On the basis of 2019 estimates, the prevalence of dementia among men and women at younger ages (60-64 years: 0.2% and 0.9%) was low and steadily increased to its peak at 90 years of age or older (29.7% and 44.8%), respectively. Compared with estimates made in 2008, the prevalence of dementia has been declining across Europe.
The authors speculated the decline may likely be due to public health efforts to promote cardiovascular health, reduce alcohol consumption and smoking rates, and promote active lifestyles.
Despite the decline of dementia cases, age continues to be a significant predictor for dementia, and as the global population ages, rates of dementia will increase over the next few decades.
Care for patients with dementia in 2008 was estimated to cost €160 billion and is projected to cost €250 billion by 2030. Caring for patients with dementia remains particularly challenging and costly due to the progressive nature of the disease and because only 4 drugs have been approved for the treatment of dementia, none of which are curative.
The Alzheimer Europe group has formulated 4 key areas the European Commission may target to reduce rates, cost of care, and instances of delayed diagnoses and for ameliorating the stigma of this complex disease.
This first step is to promote early diagnosis and healthy aging by incorporating the “dementia dimension” into the European Union’s (EU) actions. This should include support for training programs for health professions and the prioritization of policies related with mental health and aging.
The second is to have a shared European effort to promote epidemiologic knowledge and to coordinate research across member states by maintaining appropriate funding and prioritizing collaborative research programs.
The EU may also coordinate patient care plans in which member states could share data on which emerging strategies were most and least effective so that the dissemination and application of best practices may be streamlined.
Finally, the EU should establish a European network that ensures the rights of patients with dementia across the EU. The authors encouraged the EU to recognize dementia as a disability and for dementia to be incorporated into disability policies including those for support in employment and funding for long-term care.
Dementia as a European Priority – A Policy Overview 2020. Alzheimer Europe. https://issuu.com/alzheimer-europe/docs/dementia_as_a_european_priority. Accessed January 4, 2020.
This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor