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Study points to shortcomings in dementia diagnosis

Many sufferers of Alzheimer's do not receive the proper treatment

(Keystone Archive)

Two out of three people suffering from dementia in Switzerland are not aware of their illness, according to a study.

The report by the Swiss Alzheimer’s Association also warns that three-quarters of those with the mental disorder are not receiving the proper treatment.

The association described the results of the study, published ahead of World Alzheimer’s Day on Tuesday, as “alarming”.

It also warned that Switzerland’s health system would face an “enormous challenge” in the coming years as the number of Alzheimer’s sufferers continues to rise.

Latest figures show that 90,000 people in Switzerland suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Around 21,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Recommendations

The association has put forward a number of recommendations to help raise awareness about the need for early detection of dementia.

Its president, Myrtha Welti, said speedy diagnosis was crucial for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“This helps those suffering and their families to plan the future, because they have more time to adapt to the new situation,” said Welti.

“The sick and those close to them need help and support, but you first have to recognise the illness,” she added.

According to the association, two out of three sufferers react positively to treatment and therapy. But only a quarter of patients receive medication specifically for dementia.

Only one in five is offered other kinds of treatment such as memory training and creative activities.

Raising awareness

Welti said it was important to make people aware of the range of treatment options available.

“The Swiss Alzheimer’s Association will open a telephone helpline from November 1 offering basic information and letting people know about cantonal advice centres,” she said.

Welti added that it was important to break the taboos surrounding Alzheimer’s.

“The major risk factor with Alzheimer’s is age. But that shouldn’t lead to the wrong conclusions,” she said.

“If you cannot remember someone’s name or if you cannot immediately locate where you parked your car, that is not Alzheimer’s.

“But if you are in front of the coffee machine and cannot remember how it works, that could be a sign of thinking problems. In that case you should be examined by a doctor.”

Despite years of research and investment, no cure for Alzheimer’s has yet been developed.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

An estimated 90,000 people in Switzerland suffer from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
Every year, a further 21,000 cases are diagnosed.
The illness affects eight per cent of those aged 65 and over.

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In brief

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is defined as the loss of acquired intellectual abilities, particularly memory.

The disease was first described by the German doctor, Alois Alzheimer, in 1907.

The causes of Alzheimer’s are not known. Age is the most important known risk factor.

Alzheimer’s is the fourth largest cause of mortality in Switzerland.

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