Dementia-friendly policies key to tackle inequalities in access to dementia care and treatment

Today’s blog post comes from Vanessa Challinor, Policy Officer at Alzheimer Europe

Vanessa Challinor

 September was World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a moment for Alzheimer's organisations around the world to concentrate their efforts to raise awareness about the disease and the challenges faced by people living with Alzheimer ’s disease and their carers. Alzheimer Europe has recently published a report - the “European Dementia Monitor” –, which highlights the existing inequalities in access to dementia care and treatment across Europe.

 The report assesses which countries provide the most dementia-friendly policies and guarantee the best support and treatment of people with dementia and their carers. Worth noting is that countries which have national dementia strategies tended to score better in all 10 categories, measured in the survey. The survey could be a useful tool to monitor Member States’ progress in setting up national plans, but just as importantly, to encourage better implementation of these plans, in key areas ranging from access to treatment, social care, and clinical trials to research, prioritisation of national plans and recognition of employment rights.

Crucially, the findings of the European Dementia Monitor highlighted that no country excelled in all ten categories surveyed. Even more worrisome, there is still a clear East/West divide in Europe with most of the Western and Northern European countries scoring significantly higher than their Eastern European counterparts. This stark contrast underlines the need for all European countries and in particular those in Eastern Europe, to recognise dementia as a national priority and develop national dementia strategies.

 Echoing the words of Irish MEP, Deirdre Clune when hosting an Alzheimer Europe lunch debate at the European Parliament earlier this year: “I hope this report will be an incentive for some countries to further improve their support to people with dementia and their carers, and to learn from those countries which put more dementia-friendly policies in place”. With this momentum, it is high time that countries and their policy-makers step up to the challenge.

Alzheimer Europe has been advocating for the recognition of dementia as a public health priority and calls on European governments to develop national dementia strategies. I am a firm believer that the European Dementia Monitor will help not only the Alzheimer’s community but also the European policy-makers in assessing which countries provide the most dementia-friendly policies and the best support and treatment for people living with dementia and their carers. 

We will continue to work hard to communicate the various examples of best practice from a variety of European countries – be it Finland’s best in class approach to availability and affordability of care services to Belgium, Ireland, Sweden and the UK’s first-class approach to reimbursing anti-dementia treatments. At the end of the day, it is only by working together and learning from each other, that will we be able to “move the needle” and point to real improvements in the EU for people living with dementia and the people who care for them.

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