Basket | Login



National Dementia Strategies

Finland launches a national dementia plan in May 2012

On 8 May 2012, Finland launched a national dementia plan called the "National Memory Programme 2012-2020". The plan aims to create a "memory-friendly Finland" and was prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health alongwith other organisations. According to Dr. Eila Okkonen, Executive Director of Muistiliitto (the Finnish Alzheimer Society), there will be four main areas of activity:

1) The promotion of lifelong brain health and the prevention of memory-related diseases. Brain health will be promoted both on a personal level and on a very broad level across society, including social and health services and education.

2) The ageing of the population is causing a marked increase of memory-related diseases in Finland. The plan will promote positive attitudes towards people with dementia in order to guarantee their basic human rights, including the right to self-determination.

3) Good care and rehabilitation is essential. It is important that memory-related diseases be recognised, diagnosed and treated as early as possible. There will be a particular focus on the entire care chain and its quality.

4) Support for high quality research and competence of professionals are important. Research efforts must be adequately resourced, in order to support the areas above and also to ensure further development. This includes developing the knowledge and competencies of health care professionals.

Muistiliitto has been a key supporter of the Memory Plan for many years. Mr Pekka Laine, the former head of the society, was particularly active in rallying support for the plan: the society has been part of the working group that planned the programme since 2010. Muistiliitto has also commissioned Memory Surveys and was a key player in preparing a national framework for high-quality services and care for older people.

There are currently some 120,000 Finns with memory-related diseases, of which 7,000-10,000 are of working age. Approximately 13,000 new diagnoses are made every year. Muistiliitto will continue its efforts to ensure that people with dementia and their carers can have a comfortable and meaningful life.

The Minister of Health and Social Services in Finland, Paula Risikko, talks with Alzheimer Europe about the announcement that Finland will develop a national dementia strategy.

AE: Minister, you recently announced that Finland should start the development of a national dementia strategy. What motivated you to give such a priority to dementia?

Paula Risikko (PR): As the Minister of Health and Social Services I deal with a wide spectrum of public health issues. I’m very motivated to tackle those issues that pose a serious challenge for our social and health care system.

In the next few decades, the Finnish population will be ageing fast. Our aim is to promote healthy ageing keeping in mind the life course perspec- tive. This is where the national strategy concerning memory disorders and diseases comes into the picture: brain health promotion, preventive actions and early interventions are of utmost importance.

We have to give a clear message for our municipalities: invest in brain health promotion and prevention as well as early recognition and appropriate interventions and thus, potentially reduce the need for social and health services, especially the need for 24-hour care.

We have a lot of good knowledge and good practices to build our national strategy on: e.g. the Finnish recommendations for best parctices in the treatment of proressive memory diseases by the Panel of experts set up by the Finnish Alzheimer's Disease Research Society. This kind of knowledge has to be exploited and implemented.

I’d like to stress the fact that Finland is not pre- paring just a “dementia” strategy but a memory strategy or programme. The scope must be wider including brain health promotion and prevention keeping in mind the life course perspective.

AE: What will be the next steps for the devel- opment of the strategy and when should the new strategy be put in place?

PR: The Working Group will work until the end of November 2011. During its work an implemen- tation as well as an evaluation plan will be prepared. I’m looking forward to the propositions of the Working Group!

AE: What are the key areas and issues that should be addressed in the Finnish strategy?

PR: I find it important that the programme draws special attention to the promotion of brain health as well as to the entire care chain for persons with memory disorders, its quality and functionality. Staff competence and leadership are factors that secure a continuous and effective care chain.

The national programme to combat memory disorders will be coordinated with the care and quality recommendations and the objectives of social and health policy.

NB. This article first appeared in the Dementia in Europe magazine, issue 7 (March 2011)

Ms Maria Guzenina-Richardson, Finnish Minister of Health and Social Services, talks with Alzheimer Europe about the recently launched National Memory Programme.

Alzheimer Europe (AE): Can you explain why Finland launched the Finnish National Memory Programme?

Maria Guzenina-Richardson (MGR): More than 13,000 people in Finland are diagnosed with dementia every year. Memory disorders do not only affect older people; estimates of the number of people among the working-age population who suffer from memory disorders vary between 5,000 and 7,000. Individuals suffering from progressive memory disorders need and rely heavily on social welfare and health care services; for example, three out of four clients receiving 24-hour care have cognitive decline. In order for us to be able to meet the increasing demand for services, we need action a) to promote brain health, b) to prevent memory disorders, c) to detect memory loss symptoms as early as possible and d) to develop a system that ensures that treatment, rehabilitation and support are provided systematically and at the right time and that allows monitoring and follow-up – in other words, an effective and seamless clinical pathway.

The National Memory Programme is Finland’s way of joining many other countries that are responding to the European Parliament’s written declaration on preventing memory disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease, and on improving the quality of life of those suffering from memory disorders as well as their significant others

AE: What do you see as the main priorities and challenges of the Programme, particularly in relation to dementia?

MGR: The objective of the National Memory Programme is to build a “memory-friendly” Finland on the basis of four pillars:

  • Promoting brain health
  • Fostering a more open and positive attitude towards brain health, care and treatments as well as rehabilitation
  • Ensuring a good quality of life for those with memory disorder and their families through timely support, treatment, rehabilitation and services
  • Strengthening research and education.

A “memory-friendly” Finland is a society that takes the promotion of brain health and the early detection of memory loss symptoms seriously. Anyone diagnosed with a memory disorder has access to appropriate treatment, care and rehabilitation. Patients can lead their lives with dignity, and they will not be left without support.

AE: How will the Programme be implemented and over what time period?

MGR: The programme ties in with the objectives of Finland’s social welfare and health policies and existing care guidelines and quality recommendations, and its implementation will be coordinated with on-going legislative initiatives and other programmes such as Finland’s National Development Programme for Social Welfare and Health Care. The time period is from this year up to 2020.

AE: What role do you see patient groups playing in implementing the Programme?

MGR: NGO’s representing persons with memory disorders play an important role in the implementation. There are proposals for actions and coordinators in the programme, such as providing support and information about brain health promotion to the general public. Another proposal would provide people with memory disorders and their families with opportunities to engage in social activities, access to peer support and information to help them cope with daily routines and enjoy a richer life. These are just two examples of the roles that the NGO’s could have. There are several other possibilities included in the programme.

AE: In Finland you have in place “Current Care guidelines for the treatment of memory disorders”. How can these guidelines help people with dementia and their carers?

MGR: The Current Care guidelines are evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. The guidelines are intended as a basis for treatment decisions, and can be used by physicians, healthcare professionals and citizens. The guidelines are available on the internet. When professionals use the guidelines, people with dementia are treated effectively. The best available evidence is used in diagnostics and care.

AE: Do you see a need for greater European collaboration on dementia?

MGR: Of course. The challenge is common and we must learn from each other and share the best practices. The Finnish Memory Programme has just been translated into English in order to facilitate collaboration.



Last Updated: Tuesday 30 April 2013