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National Dementia Strategies

12 March 2012, the Swiss parliament voted to create a national dementia plan

On 12 March 2012, the Swiss Council of States (upper house of the federal Parliament) approved a series of proposals which effectively call upon the government to prepare a national dementia plan.

The next step will be to establish priorities and assign action items to regional authorities and associations. The Swiss Alzheimer Association is an active supporter for a national dementia plan and has proposed that the following be included:

  • funding for professional training to improve diagnosis
  • support for family caregivers, including funding for day/night care centres
  • campaigns to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with dementia

There are currently more than 100,000 people with dementia in Switzerland. This will increase to 150,000 in ten years and to some 300,000 people by 2040.

Pascal Strupler, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, speaks about the Swiss National Dementia Strategy 2014-2017 that was approved at the end of 2103 by the federal government and the cantons. The strategy aims to deliver high-quality advice, support and care for people with dementia and their families throughout the entire course of the disease. Within the strategy, 18 projects will raise public awareness, promote needs-oriented services, ensure quality of care and increase specialists’ expertise and skills.

Why does Switzerland need a dementia strategy? What is the background?

As part of its health policy strategy, the Swiss Federal Council aims to promote modern forms of care provision and to improve the integrated management of major diseases. The dementia strategy is one of the projects with which this goal will be achieved. The number of people with chronic health problems will increase significantly over the next years and decades because the population is ageing. There are likely to be around 25,000 new cases of dementia every year.

Optimised, integrated management in all phases of dementia, from early detection to palliative care, plays a major role in improving the quality of life and subjective wellbeing of those affected and enables us to ensure that they can enjoy a good quality of life despite their illness.

Care providers and patient organisations also view the dementia strategy as a very important and valuable concept: they will continue to play a dynamic and constructive role in helping to implement it. Some cantons are already implementing their own strategies, which are harmonised with the national strategy.

From your perspective, which of the defined objectives have priority? What is the biggest challenge?

Our primary focus is to improve the quality of life of people with dementia. We need to support everyone involved, in every phase of the disease. Early and accurate diagnosis is important in enabling people with dementia to be involved in their individual treatment, support and care. In addition, support for people with dementia and their families needs to be better coordinated, networked and developed in line with their needs. That is one of our greatest challenges. Our aim is to ensure management that is appropriate and specific to dementia in both the outpatient and the inpatient setting, and in short-term and long-term care. Those affected need to be taken seriously in their specific life situation and be involved in decisions as far as possible.

How is the strategy being funded? What is the budget for its implementation?

The strategy will be implemented using the stakeholders' existing human and financial resources. To a large degree, the proposed projects can be integrated into ongoing cantonal activities. Better national coordination will enable us to exploit synergies and so enhance the efficacy of the various measures.

How will the strategy actually be implemented and how long will it take?

The National Dementia Strategy has a solid foundation. The stakeholders agree on the need for action and on the objectives and they are working with great dedication. I am confident that they will tackle the projects within the strategy with great energy. The federal government, cantons and stakeholders will work together on the ongoing development of the various activities and will adapt them to the specific target groups and regions. The main focus of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the federal authority which is overseeing the strategy, and the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Health (GDK), which together are responsible for the strategy, will be to coordinate activities and to ensure the flow of information and communication between the stakeholders.

Will the patients and the Swiss Alzheimer's Association, which represents their interests, be involved?

The Swiss Alzheimer's Association was an essential partner during the conception and development of the national dementia strategy. This collaboration will continue to be decisive during the implementation phase, particularly in the areas of raising awareness and patient counselling. We attach great importance to providing support and respite for the families of people with dementia; several projects have specific aims to expand services in this area. For example, we will establish personalised information and welfare counselling structures, develop flexible regional respite services for day and night care and also reinforce the skills of family members and informal caregivers.

Is there a need for closer collaboration on dementia on a European level?

International collaboration on public health policy is one of the reasons why Switzerland enjoys such a high-quality health service. Countries with health systems similar to ours - such as Germany, the Netherlands and other EU countries - have provided us with invaluable input on ways to improve healthcare provision. This applies especially to the care of people with dementia.

Alzheimer Europe would like to thank Birgitta Martensson, Director and Susanne Bandi, Communication Manager from the Swiss Alzheimer’s Association for their major contribution to this article.

21 November 2013: Switzerland adopts a national dementia plan

On 21 November 2013, the Swiss federal government and the country's 26 cantons adopted a national dementia plan for the years 2014-2017.

The plan is based on the premise that dementia affects not only the individual, but also family members and health professionals. It contains nine objectives that include greater awareness, individual care strategies and integrated care pathways. The plan also calls for improvements in early diagnosis and long term care, both in people's homes and in specialised institutions.

The Swiss Alzheimer Association has been very active in the development of the plan since its inception. In a press release, the association expressed its global approval of the plan and pointed out that each individual canton must now take the appropriate steps to ensure its success.

On 21 April 2016, the Department of Employment, Social Affairs and Health of the Canton of Geneva presented its Alzheimer Plan 2016-2019 to the State Council. The plan is divided into five overarching objectives, considered a priority, and 15 action points. A group, consisting of the main partners of the Geneva care network will be created to oversee and support the progressive implementation of the action plan, which will begin in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

The five overarching objectives of the plan are:

  • Improve, at the cantonal level, the efficiency of diagnosis and monitoring of people with cognitive disorders.
  • Promote advance directives (AD) and raise awareness of the possibility of appointing a “therapeutic representative”.
  • Improve communication and coordination between partners of the care network.
  • Improve training of caregivers to provide better care for people with cognitive disorders.
  • Improve support for caregivers of people with cognitive disorders.

The Geneva Alzheimer Plan is consistent with health planning in the canton of Geneva 2016-2019 and with the Swiss National Dementia Strategy 2014-2017.

You can read the full plan (in French) on the following website or download it below.



Last Updated: Thursday 28 April 2016