National Dementia Plans
There is a draft National Dementia Strategy in Malta. It is hoped that implementation will start in 2012 and continue to 2020. This draft is based on previous work done by the Dementia Strategy Group (DSG) which was launched in May 2009 by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly and Community Care. It is a comprehensive strategy, which provides direction in the various areas of dementia care from increasing awareness, to improving early diagnosis, to increasing support to dementia patients and their families and providing end of life and palliative care.
Dr. Charles Scerri, Chair of the National Dementia Strategy Group in Malta and General Secretary of the Malta Dementia Society, talks with Alzheimer Europe about the need for a national dementia strategy and the aims of the Strategy Group. (April 2010)
Alzheimer Europe: Dr. Scerri, as Chair of the National Dementia Strategy Group, could you explain why the Strategy Group was set up in May 2009 and what it was tasked to do?
Charles Scerri: One of the most important challenges facing the Maltese society is the ever-increasing number in the elderly population. Individuals above the age of 65 years will double by the year 2050. As a result, neurodegenerative diseases normally associated with old age, such as many forms of dementia, will also rise proportionately. This was highlighted by a recent research study indicating that two percent of the general population in Malta will have dementia in the next 40 years, double the current data. This will bring about a significant demand not only on healthcare services but also on the society in general as most of the care is provided in the community. Therefore, the need of having an appropriate dementia strategy in place was a tangible reality. The setting up the National Dementia Strategy Group in May 2009 was the idea of the Maltese Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly and Community Care following the Paris Conference ‘The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders’ in October 2008. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s closing speech provided us with the impetus to embark on such an ambitious project. Furthermore, other European countries are already working on their national plans and Malta needs to follow in the same direction. The task of this Group was to design a strategy that would provide a clear pathway for improving dementia services in Malta.
AE: What do you believe the aims of a National Dementia Strategy should be?
CS: The aim of the National Dementia Strategy is to map out the strategic direction for improving services for people with dementia and their care-givers in the Maltese islands. This will be a challenging task and will necessitate considerable financial investment and the participation of various stakeholders. The latter is of utmost importance during the implementation phase and in fact during the consultation process, the National Dementia Strategy Group carried out a series of meetings with the many stakeholders involved. Moreover the general public was also invited to contribute through a specifically-designed questionnaire and the results of this exercise were incorporated in the final report.
AE: The Strategy Group’s recommendations were presented to the national health authorities in January 2010. Which do you consider to be the key recommendations which were made?
CS: The report ‘Inspiring New Frontiers – The Malta Dementia Strategy’ highlights ten key recommendations. The latter recognize the need to increase dementia awareness at all levels by providing good-quality information, improving early diagnosis and intervention, improving the quality of acute and long-term dementia care, develop appropriate community support and improving end-of-life services together with strengthening legal and ethical issues regarding individuals with dementia and their care-givers. Each recommendation is supported by suggestions aimed at achieving these outcomes.
AE: What reaction to the recommendations do you hope for from policy makers?
CS: The report was presented to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly and Community Care at the end of January 2010. Therefore, it is still early to get a formal reaction from the government authorities. The recommendations put forward will entail significant amount of work spread over a number of years. The report recognizes the need for training and improvement of services, all of which requires planning and financial investment. It also makes an emphasis on moving away from the disease model thus favouring a patient-centred approach. Consultation with stakeholders emphasized on the need to start addressing dementia at a national level and thus the gradual implementation of these recommendations at the earliest. Establishing a National Dementia Strategy Board that will coordinate the implementation process would be a step in the right direction in ensuring that the targets are effectively met.
AE: Thank you for this interview and we wish you every success in ensuring a National Dementia Strategy becomes a reality in Malta.
Last Updated: Wednesday 14 March 2012