01.11.2013 Dementia – a challenge for society and the healthcare system

National Dementia Strategy 2014– 2017. Today about 110,000 persons suffering from dementia are living in Switzerland. And their numbers are growing. The National Dementia Strategy aims to provide a targeted response to this growing challenge.

Pictures Dementia – a challenge for society and the healthcare system


In Switzerland, there are an estimated 25,000 new cases of dementia each year. The syndrome mainly affects eld­erly people aged 80 and over. One in eight people of the 80–84 age group has dementia The number of cases starts rising as early as age 65, although relatively slowly. Just under three per cent of the 65–69 age group live with dementia. Because age is the principal risk factor of dementia and people are living for longer, the number of cases will grow steadily: according to estimates, the number of people with dementia in Switzerland will rise to over 190,000 by 2030 and around 300,000 by 2060.
The signs and symptoms of dementia do not necessarily lead to a diagnosis. It is thought that less than half the cases of dementia in Switzerland have been unequivocally diagnosed. Lack of a diagnosis, or a late diagnosis, can hinder appropriate treatment as well as counselling and support.

Many people indirectly affected
In Switzerland, half of all people with dementia live at home. As a result, a large number of people are also in­directly affected by the illness. These include people close to the person with dementia, such as family members, friends or supportive individuals in the community. Add to these the professionals who are in regular contact with dementia patients in their everyday work, and the total number of people on whom dementia has a direct or indirect impact probably amounts to about half a million. Two thirds of respondents in a representative survey conducted by the University of Zurich in 2012 stated that they had already had contact with dementia patients. In half of these cases the patient was a member of their immediate or wider family.

Economic costs of around seven billion francs
According to initial calculations, the economic costs of dementia currently amount to just under seven billion francs per year. About four billion francs of this sum is accounted for by direct costs such as nursing care, doctors' visits, hospital stays and medication. The remaining three billion are the estimated market value of unpaid caregiving and nursing services provided by individuals close to the patients.

Strategic goal: to maintain quality of life
These figures show that dementia is a challenge for society and the healthcare system. The National Dementia Strategy 2014–2017 is being drawn up to meet this challenge. This strategy is geared to the various phases of dementia, which, depending on their characteristics, impact differently on those affected and make specific demands on the healthcare system. The main concern of the National Dementia Strategy 2014–2017 is to support the people affected and to maintain and promote their quality of life. The quality of care delivered must be of a high standard and meet the needs of the individuals involved over the entire course of the illness.

Participative approach
Parliament provided the impetus for the National Dementia Strategy 2014–2017 in March 2012 when it referred two motions for further consideration. The strategy is being drawn up and implemented in the framework of the "Dialogue on National Healthcare Policy", a platform of the federal government and the cantons. Responsibility for the strategy process is shared by the Federal Office of Public Health and the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Health Ministers.
The National Dementia Strategy is in line with the priorities of the "Health2020" overall health-policy strategy that the federal government approved in January this year. Two of the main pillars of this comprehensive overview are ensuring the high standard of care delivered and maintaining quality of life.
In order to draw up a sustainable and practice-compliant strategy, it is essential for priorities to be set regarding the need for action, including a guarantee that knowledge will be transferred from practice and research to politics. For this reason, a participative approach to the entire process of drawing up the strategy was chosen. Representatives from dementia support organisations, professional institutions and federations, service providers and representatives from the Confederation, cantons and municipalities are participating.

The National Dementia Strategy 2014–2017 looks set to be approved by the "Dialogue on National Healthcare Policy" in the second half of November.


Verena Hanselmann, Health Strategies Division, verena.hanselmann@bag.admin.ch

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