Study: Czechs must do more to prepare for rise in dementia cases

Photo: European Commission

There are currently some 150,000 people in the Czech Republic suffering from various forms of dementia, most frequently Alzheimer’s disease. That is relatively few compared to some other European countries. But experts warn that the number is rapidly increasing due to the ageing Czech population, and there is no official strategy in place either to combat the disease or to coordinate care for sufferers. I discussed the issue with Ondřej Mátl, co-author of a freshly released report on the state of dementia in the country.

Ondřej Mátl,  photo: Marián Vojtek
“From a certain perspective, the increase is quite dramatic. If you realize that in 30 years, the number should double, you can see that the trend of rising numbers of people with dementia in the Czech Republic is a serious issue.”

Yet compared to other European countries, your report says that on average, the situation in the Czech Republic is not that precarious.

“It’s not that bad at the moment. But the Czech Republic is one of the countries with relatively very rapid ageing of the population, and the issue will need to be brought forward”

In the Czech Republic, you say that less than 10 percent of them seek some form of care provided from the state. However, in Germany, for instance, the ratio is 26 percent, and it’s even higher in some other countries. Why do so few Czech dementia sufferers seek medical help?

“Medical or social help. I think the reason is that compared to other countries, we don’t have a developed and systemized process of early contact. In families that are faced with the issue, they often don’t know what to do. They don’t know whom to contact or simply how to deal with the situation.

“So in many cases, we rely on help from families or communities whereas in countries where the system of the first contact is incorporated in the social and health care sphere, they are able to deal with people through these formal systems much better, not only in institutions but also in ambulances.”

Photo: European Commission
Is this the biggest problem you see when it comes to the authorities’ approach to dementia, that there is no system of helping people in the early stages of the diseas?

“I’ve been working in this field for 15 years, and have also worked at various ministries that deal with these issues, and I have to say that we’ve heard over and over that there is no system of coordinated social and health care. From time to time, there is an effort to do something about it but so far, nobody has been successful. So I look forward to the day when the government does succeed in introducing a system of coordinated care.”