Washington, DC, September 21, 2018 (PAHO/WHO- IHACHR) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urge countries in the Americas to take the needed measures to guarantee that people with Alzheimer’s disease have access to care, services and medical treatment, in recognition of International Alzheimer’s Day.

Alzheimer’s causes almost 70% of dementia cases. Dementia is a chronic syndrome that gradually causes cognitive function to deteriorate, often affecting memory and coupled with impaired emotional control, changes in behavior, and loss of motivation. At present, 46.8 million people globally live with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The number of people suffering from dementia is expected to pass the 75 million mark by 2030. By then, it is estimated that around 15 million people in the Americas will be suffering from it.

Dementia is one of the main causes of disability and dependence among the elderly. In 2015, its global cost was estimated at USD 818 billion, 85% of which was spent on patient care. Dementia rates are growing faster in Latin America and the Caribbean than anywhere else on earth.

patient dementia received family support

Dementia affects not just the person suffering from it, but also their entire family and social circle. Patients are often stigmatized, which can make it more difficult for them to access health services and appropriate treatment.

The IACHR, part of the Organization of American States (OAS), and PAHO are calling on the countries in the region to raise awareness of Alzheimer´s effects and to respect the human rights of those who suffer from it by facilitating access to the best treatment and care so as to guarantee that patients and their families can live with dignity. The organizations urge countries to make headway on public policies that acknowledge the fundamental role of the family in caring for elderly people with Alzheimer’s and better monitor the care given to Alzheimer´s patients at both public and private institutions.

PAHO and the IACHR believe that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia should be recognized as a priority public health issue. As such, they also call on countries to invest in health systems to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of people suffering from dementia. Support should also be provided for those who care for people with dementia and their families. Health system monitoring must be improved, and more research is needed to foster innovative treatments.

The IACHR believes that elderly people are in a particularly vulnerable situation when they suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This can lead to them facing different types of violence at care facilities, as well as abandonment, mistreatment, and abuse. PAHO reports that greater knowledge and awareness of dementia can help reduce discrimination against dementia patients and improve their quality of life, as well as that of their caretakers.

The IACHR and PAHO reiterate their call to OAS member states to ratify the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Rights of Older Persons, to take measures to guarantee that the elderly enjoy the basic human rights needed for a dignified life, and to prioritize this group on the regional agenda so as to guarantee a sense of independence and autonomy that is rooted in equality and nondiscrimination.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their populations. Founded in 1902, it is the world’s oldest international public health agency. It serves as the Regional Office of WHO for the Americas and is the specialized health agency of the Inter-American system.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.