Czech Republic to have network of homes for Alzheimer patients

Some 100,000 people in the Czech Republic - that's one percent of the population - suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Half of them need around the clock intensive care, and many families are simply unable to cope. At the moment, there are no dedicated institutions in this country for Alzeheimer's sufferers. But that is set to change, with the opening of a new network of special homes over the next six years. Dita Asiedu reports:

Alzheimer's is a common disease and yet there are several explanations and unanswered questions regarding what causes it. Patients suffer from memory loss, bad orientation, have difficulty expressing themselves and solving problems. In the Czech Republic, where the population is ageing, the number of Alzheimer patients is expected to grow fast - from some 100,000 today to 250,000 in less than fifty years. While new medicines prolong life with Alzheimer's - patients can live for over ten years - the country lacks institutions specialising in the disease.

But next year, the first specialised home for Alzheimer patients is to be opened in Prague. The home will be located in the Prague 8 district and will accommodate 25 people; several more will be able to come in for treatment as out-patients. Barbora Simsova is from the Prima Vesnicka - or Prima Village - foundation, which is organising the project:

"We want to open discussion about this disease because so many people don't know what Alzheimer's is and they don't know that it is a big problem of our time. Patients need specialised long-term care. I am sorry to say that families nowadays are helpless. They move their grandma or grandpa from hospitals to homes for the elderly and back to hospitals. That is why the Prima Village project came to being."

By 2013 the network is to be complete with a home in each of the country's fourteen regions. Every home will have a celebrity "patron". Among them are actor Jiri Bartoska, entertainer Jiri Korn, and jazz musician Ondrej Havelka. The homes will also serve as information centres offering professional advice on the treatment of Alzheimer's and how to care for patients:

"We are cooperating with the Prague 8 municipality and when the Prima home will be ready, we will give it to the municipality. It will then have to do a selection procedure to find a specialist in gerontology. The doctor will have private medical attendance there and it is important to add that the Prima homes will also serve as social welfare institutions and consulting centres for the families of patients."

The first home is expected to cost up to 65 million crowns (around 3 million US dollars). Accommodation and treatment per patient will not be cheap - around 1,000 crowns a day (48 US dollars). The project will partly be financed from the proceeds of a series of benefit golf tournaments that will be held in all 14 regions. Two famous golfers, whose names have not been disclosed, will take part in the final, which will take place next September. The Prima Village foundation also plans to launch an SMS donation campaign and hopes to cover 20 percent of the costs from an EU grant. The project is being run under the auspices of the Czech Alzheimer's Association.