Healthcare professionals confer to tackle Alzheimer's disease

The 5th "Prague days of gerontology" conference is currently underway in the Czech capital. 640 experts from the fields of social affairs and healthcare have registered in order to obtain contacts and learn about how the elderly are faring in the Czech Republic. This year's conference focuses on mental illness, in particular Alzheimer's or old-age dementia - a disease that has apparently received insufficient attention here, although many Czechs over the age of 65 are sufferers. Dita Asiedu was at the conference and brings back this report:

In a declaration on the rights of the elderly, the Czech Helsinki Committee states that the importance of the family, love, and respect for senior citizens is underestimated, and the feeling of obligation towards the older generation has been lost. It also focuses on standards in the old people's homes, which it says are often unsatisfactory.

The chairwoman of the Czech Alzheimer's Association, Iva Holmerova, who hosts this year's five-day conference, agrees with this declaration and believes that poor co-ordination and late diagnosis are to blame for many of the problems faced by the elderly in the Czech Republic:

"It is very important support for our activities and it is quite obvious and clear that in this country there is a great lack of the coordination between health and social care that especially the older people need. There are other huge problems because we do very late diagnosis. Not many people are willing to think about this diagnosis of Alzheimer disease. Doctors and other health care physicians underestimate this problem.

"There is also a problem with treatment because there is no way of proper treatment of Alzheimer disease in this country as there is no reimbursement of drugs. It's a great problem for the families because the drugs are not expensive for the general system of health care insurance but it they are a great problem for the families."

Besides these problems, senior Czech citizens face another that has not received much attention until it was mentioned in the Czech Helsinki Committee's declaration. Four percent of those aged over 65 are maltreated and the Czech Alzheimer's Association as well as the Czech Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics intend to bring attention to the issue during this year's conference. But Iva Holmerova believes it is sometimes difficult to detect cases of abuse:

"It is very difficult to find this problem because they have a problem to express their needs, to admit to themselves that there is something wrong in their families, that their children abuse them, and so on. It is all types of abuse, also physical and sexual aggression but there are many cases of psychological abuse of moving people from one institution to another of economical abuse of older people, etc."