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View from Italy

MEPs speak out on dementia

Patrizia Toia, MEP, Vice-chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and member of the European Alzheimer’s Alliance talks with Alzheimer Europe about the situation in Italy for people with dementia and their carers.

Alzheimer Europe (AE): What are the key challenges that people with dementia and their carers face in Italy ?

Patrizia Toia (PT): In Italy, as in some other countries, greater awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, age-related and neurodegenerative diseases has led to a series of concrete actions to tackle these diseases. If a few years ago the care of people suffering from these diseases fell onto the shoulders of the families, today we can report that research into these diseases has been encouraged, specialised support centres with highly trained professionals have been created for the people with dementia and their carers. We hope that further progress will be made to prevent or at least stop the development of these pathologies.

AE : Governments across Europe are starting to pay more attention to the demographic changes in our societies and the resulting in creased in the number of people with dementia in the future.  Are there similar discussions in your country on a governmental or parliamentary level?

PT: Inevitably, the ageing of the population calls for a series of changes in the field of health and treatment. But, overall, the level of well-being has increased. The training of general practitioners, the possibility to have access to early diagnosis and access to care have been important measures. This can be explained by the major steps forward made by our country in the field of information and awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of work has been carried out in this field by the associations which take care for these people. They all deserve a big thank you. However, Italy is certainly lagging behind on legal matters and there is still a long way to go before we see results.

AE :  Do you believe that Italy will follow the example set by France, Norway, the Netherlands and England to create a National Alzheimer’s Plan?

PT: It is difficult to predict the future. All recommendations from health professionals go towards the setting up of a national programme or outline laws in order to coordinate the various projects and programmes that prove to be efficient in some regions and, above all, clearly inform the citizens about what ressources are available. Today, the challenges of dementia are not exclusively an Italian issue: we would need a European body to give guidelines and engage all countries in tackling dementia. This seems to be the way to go.

AE : What do you believe should the three policy priorities be for Italian policy makers to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers in your country?

PT: The objectives of Federazione Alzheimer Italia are to provide information and raise awareness towards the public and the policy makers about dementia, promote medical and scientific research, provide support to and represent the people with dementia and their carers, contribute to the development of public health and social policies. The aim is to respect the dignity of all people affected by disease, inform them about their disease so they can make enlightened decisions about the care and support they want to receive, including access to social and medical services. They should have the right to choose the type of services  that are available.

Policy makers have always to act in the best interest of the citizens and be at their service. In health matters, and more specifically in the case of diseases that call for continuous assistance, psychological support for the family carers and access to tailored care are needed. But family carers have to face the costs linked to the various forms care of the person with dementia. Now, more than ever, we need to address the availability and accessibility to financial resources while offering the best treatments and care. Specialised and highly qualified professionals are needed. On this front, we can be thankful to the non-governmental organisations for the work they are doing. Thanks to them many steps forward have been made.

AE : Would you support the development of a European Action Plan and if so, what do you believe the priorities should be?

PT: The European Union is certainly a driver: it shapes our future and the choices we will make at European level will affect all of us. It is most important that all decisions taken at European level be embraced and implemented at national level by as many Member States as possible. Our priorities must always put the interests of the citizens on the front line, especially those citizens affected by a debilitating, care and support demanding diseases. Their carers must be supported too and be certain that they will not have to face alone situations labelled as dramatic on their own. The European Union must work together on this front.



Last Updated: Friday 30 March 2012