Sara Fascendini, Director, Alzheimer Medical Centre, FERB, Italy and co-lead of the REspectful Caring for AGitated Elderly (RECage) project, illustrated the project, funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme, during the Final Consensus Conference held in Brussels on 21-22 February, 2023. The project is about the Special Care Units for persons with dementia and BPSD (SCU-Bs), defined as “residential medical structures lying outside of a nursing home, in a general hospital or elsewhere, to which patients with BPSD can be temporarily admitted, when their behavioural disorders are not manageable at home. The mission of the SCU-Bs is to improve patients’ behaviour, so as to allow, where possible, their return home”.
The therapeutic approach of the SCU-Bs is a mixture of cautious non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments, creating an appropriate environment and ensuring a trained staff of multidisciplinary experts. 150 stakeholders were involved across the seven countries in the project (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland). Despite the fact that the clinical trial failed to achieve its primary endpoint, that is long-term improvement of BPSD, Dr Fascendini stressed that the evidence found in the literature on the “acute effectiveness” of the SCU-B, as well as the shared common experiences from physicians running such units across Europe, showed that SCU-Bs can successfully tackle acute challenging clinical situations. In any case, she particularly highlighted the importance of considering SCU-Bs “only as a component of a comprehensive network of dementia care”. The model received positive feedback from experts involved, across the different countries, but the lack of resources is the main barrier to implementing it. A political commitment to putting SCU-Bs into practice, at least experimentally, is essential, she insisted.