New support programme for Alzheimer's Disease sufferers in Europe

26 March 2010

A new support programme for patients and carers was launched at the 25th Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) Conference this month.

 This initiative, Memory Problems?, which has been instigated and funded by Eisai Europe Ltd and Pfizer Limited, will become available across Europe during 2010.

It has been created to help people recognise the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and to distinguish these from the normal changes that occur with ageing. It provides practical advice and tools to help anyone concerned about memory problems in a loved one to take action by talking to those affected and consulting their doctor.

“Diagnosing dementia is often difficult, particularly in the early stages, but this is when it is most important”, says Professor Roy Jones from The Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) Centre, Royal United Hospital, Bath, UK. “If we can diagnose and start managing Alzheimer’s disease early, we can help patients and their families cope better with the situation. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this devastating disease, but there are treatments that may slow the progression of symptoms and these should be prescribed at the time of diagnosis.”

The IMPACT survey on Alzheimer’s disease

The importance of family members and other caregivers in recognising the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease was highlighted in a recent large online survey. The IMPACT (Important Perspectives on Alzheimer’s Care and Treatment) study involved 1,800 doctors, caregivers, payors and members of the general public from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

The study showed that 93% of Alzheimer’s disease patients were initially brought to the doctor by a family member. Furthermore, two thirds (66%) of European doctors believe family members are most likely to recognise the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This indicates the vital role that family members can play in spotting the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and encouraging their relative to visit a doctor.

However, the research also highlighted that many caregivers were not aware of all of the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and that the average time from a caregiver noticing symptoms to making an appointment with a doctor was 43 weeks.

 The survey found that nearly half (45%) of patients discussing Alzheimer’s disease with their doctors for the first time were already experiencing moderate symptoms. The reasons that caregivers gave for the delay in seeing a doctor about symptoms included wanting to ensure symptoms were not temporary (38%), the belief that symptoms were a normal part of ageing (36%) and resistance from the patient (33%).

The Memory Problems? website includes two innovative animations. These are short educational films that bring to life some of the symptoms and behaviours that are early indicators of the disease, as well as prompting family members to take early action when they recognise these symptoms.

As many adults already search online for health information, the Memory Problems? website is an ideal place for worried families to begin dealing with concerns.

“It can be difficult to recognise and confront the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease, so anything that helps people to recognise the early symptoms is very welcome,” says Marc Wortmann, Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). “There is a need for more awareness and more information about Alzheimer’s disease in many European countries. The Memory Problems? campaign could therefore be a valuable resource for many people.”


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