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Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (Germany)

MEPs speak out on dementia

Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (MEP, Germany) talks about her involvement with the European Alzheimer’s Alliance and the need for Member States to take action against dementia (April 2010).

It is undeniable that awareness about the challenges of an ageing population and its correlated brain disorders has increased across the Member States over the past couple of years. The European Commission's Communication on Alzheimer's disease and the Council Recommendations on research into neurodegenerative diseases are now leading the way to concerted action at European level. Some Member States are joining forces to work on a dementia action plan and engaging in a joint programming of research activities in neurodegenerative diseases.

This is most laudable. Increased awareness and the growing number of carers of people with dementia have lead to a greater demand for better diagnosis, prevention and treatment as well as innovative care schemes. The stakes and the expectations of both the Members of the European Parliament who supported Alzheimer Europe in making dementia a European public health priority and the population are high. The Member States will have to deliver on the intended goals of these two latest important European developments. I now want to see real commitment from the Member States in bringing changes.

It is important that all health related research programmes dedicate money to understanding the causes of dementia, and work towards a variety of treatments to – at least – halt the progress of the disease, increase the quality of life of both the sufferers and their carers.

Mentally confused people are a very specific and growing population with well-identified needs and caring for them requires timely and tailored solutions. It is thus time to re-think how the care of these people needs to be organised. I strongly believe they need an individual care plan to respond effectively to their condition. My plea is to keep these people in their own environment (evidence shows that the state of health of mentally confused people dramatically declines in hospital), with care tailored to the different brain disorders and their different stages. Not only is this a matter of dignity, it is a matter of urgency.

The Member States have to be serious. They must share best practices and effectively implement the findings and recommendations that will come up from the Joint Action Plan. It is not acceptable to see only a handful of Member States taking the elderly issue seriously. ALL Member States must act and it is the European Parliament's role to make sure this is the case. The European Alzheimer's Alliance will be vigilant and a whistle blower in this respect.

Patient organisations like Alzheimer Europe must also be whistle blowers. While they are the link between the policy makers and the families of people with dementia, the patient organisations also have a role in identifying the shortcomings of the care systems in Europe and mobilising the policy makers to bring about effective changes.

By working together and putting action to the words, I am confident that the current plight of the people with dementia and their carers will be alleviated in the future. But this needs a truly dedicated political approach if we seriously want to change the current situation and prepare our future.



Last Updated: Monday 03 May 2010