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Alzheimer's disease and other dementias: EU initiatives

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Alzheimer's disease and other dementias: EU initiatives

SUMMARY OF:

European Commission communication (COM(2009) 380 final) on a European initiative on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias

SUMMARY

WHAT DOES THE COMMUNICATION DO?

It lays down milestones for an EU initiative on dementia*.

KEY POINTS

In this communication, the European Commission highlights 4 areas in which action needs to be taken to tackle the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia:

  • 1.

    Reducing the risk of dementia and making an early diagnosis: preventing the disease or making an early diagnosis can delay the development of the disease. However, the risk factors are not the same for the different forms of dementia. It is easier, for example, to prevent vascular dementia than Alzheimer’s disease since risk factors for vascular dementia are already well-known, i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and smoking. The Commission recommends that EU countries put in place actions to:

    • promote cardiovascular health and physical activity;
    • produce recommendations to inform the public;
    • include older people in a flexible retirement regime to allow them to remain active.
  • 2.

    Understanding dementia — improving knowledge and coordinating research: reliable incidence and prevalence data on dementia are essential to allow EU countries to plan how their public services can best deal with dementia, as well as to find new criteria for early diagnosis. The Commission launched in parallel with its communication a pilot initiative to develop a research strategy in the area of neurodegenerative diseases. This would allow the pooling and coordination of the efforts of basic and clinical researchers in this field. This gave rise to the Alcove (Alzheimer Cooperative Valuation in Europe) joint action — which addressed all 4 of these challenges — between 2011 and 2013, involving 30 partners from across Europe.

  • 3.

    Sharing good practices: this can take place by means of the open method of coordination (OMC) for social protection, social inclusion and long-term care. The OMC can help to define quality structures and standards for medical and care services for people affected by the disease.

  • 4.

    Respecting patients’ rights, autonomy and dignity: their loss of capacity makes it difficult for people with dementia to maintain their place and actively participate in society. Their carers may also experience social exclusion resulting from the effects of dementia on their loved ones. The Commission proposed the creation of a European network for rights and dignity of people with dementia. In 2009, the patient organisation Alzheimer Europe established the European Dementia Ethics Network.

In 2014, the Commission published a report on the implementation of the communication. It outlines all the activities that have taken place since 2009 and highlights the results of the Alcove project. Also noteworthy are the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing and the fact that the EU initiative has prompted more than half the EU countries to adopt national plans or strategies on dementia or to start work on them.

In December 2015, the Council adopted conclusions stressing the need to improve care policies and practices in the area of dementia.

BACKGROUND

One of the consequences of the ageing European population is the increase in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. These diseases represent a high cost for society, which can be reduced by coordinated EU-wide action.

For more information, see ‘Dementia’ on the European Commission’s website.

KEY TERM

* Dementia: a neurodegenerative disease which affects mental ability such as memory, thinking and judgment, and may even cause a deterioration in personality. The most common forms are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease (50-70 % of cases);
  • dementia caused by successive strokes (30 % of cases);
  • frontotemporal dementia;
  • Pick’s disease;
  • Binswanger’s disease;
  • Lewy-Body dementia.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on a European initiative on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias (COM(2009) 380 final of 22.7.2009)

RELATED ACTS

Commission Staff Working Document: Implementation report on the Commission Communication on a European initiative on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias (SWD(2014) 321 final of 16.10.2014)

Council conclusions on supporting people living with dementia: improving care policies and practices (OJ C 418, 16.12.2015, pp. 9–12)

last update 24.05.2016

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