A non-existent dementia strategy

By Laura TomassiniMisch PautschGilles Kayser Switch to German for original article

Luxembourg does not have a national action plan when it comes to dementia. However, it is estimated that the number of dementia patients will triple by 2050, making a national-level strategy increasingly urgent.

"Old people are just not sexy", this sentence was said in every interview conducted about dementia. What instinctively leads to indignant gasps, however, reflects a reality. Cause despite the assumption that around 8,000 people in Luxembourg are affected by dementia and that this number could triple by 2050 according to international estimates, there is no real lobby for them in this country – just as no clear national strategy that addresses prevention, early diagnosis and medical care for people with the disease exists.

"Luxembourg does not have an official national plan. The only thing that has been recorded so far is the final report of the steering committee for the creation of a national action plan 'Dementia'. This was written in 2013 and was supposed to run until 2018, to eventually be evaluated and translated into a national strategy. However, it never happened", states Christine Dahm-Mathonet, Directorate Officer of the Dementia Information Centre. The national information and counselling centre, along with psycho-geriatric training for professionals with special approaches in dealing with patients with dementia, is one of the few proposals for action that were recorded and effectively implemented by the various working groups in the report almost ten years ago. All other measures were not retained.

No standardised diagnostic procedure

Dahm-Mathonet sees a need to catch up, both with future initiatives and with the existing ones: "Our info centre has existed since 2016 and I think we are doing a good job so far. Nevertheless, this measure has also never been monitored by an external expert, as it should be the case for such organisms." The uniform diagnostic procedure for dementia-related diseases mentioned in the report has also never been implemented at national level. Prof. Michael Heneka, Director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg, explains the issue: "For an unequivocal diagnosis of dementia, several procedures are needed to guarantee the exclusion of other diseases. In this country, however, this has not yet been structurally implemented throughout the country and there is no specialised memory outpatient clinic."

Detailed neuropsychological testing procedures, an examination of the cerebrospinal fluid on neurodegeneration-associated biomarkers, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, an ultrasound examination of the blood vessels supplying the brain and an electroencephalogram – all these diagnostic procedures used in specialised clinics abroad are, according to him, not being routinely used in combination in Luxembourg to evaluate cognitive disorders. Despite their reliability in diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases, which include dementia.

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