Dementia Strategies: The Netherlands

The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport announced in April they will be investing 32.5 million euros in the battle against dementia. This money is intended for the Delta Plan Dementia, a collaboration between public and private domains to stop the vast increase in the number of people who live with dementia. The announcement marks an important step from the Dutch government in addressing the issue of dementia.

In the media

Marco Blom, Scientific Director, Alzheimer Nederland, reports on the “Delta Plan Dementia”.

The Delta Plan Dementia is an eight-year plan that requires a total investment of EUR 200 million. Keywords are: earlier detection of the disease; more understanding of the onset of the disease; better prevention and treatment options; and quality of care. The plan consists of three components: additional investment in scientific research; a national register with data on patient status to improve care; and an online portal for professionals, people with dementia and their carers. The research agenda that forms the basis of the plan has been drawn up by Alzheimer Nederland (Alzheimer’s Society in the Netherlands), with the help of people with dementia, their carers, citizens and scientists.

The Delta Plan is a unique collaboration between science, national government and private parties.
Initiative
Alzheimer Nederland and the Alzheimer Centre at the VU University Medical Centre took the initiative to develop the plan, together with the Dutch Federation of Academic Hospitals (NFU) and ZonMw (the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development). The essence of the plan is collaboration between the public and private domain. Besides Alzheimer Nederland, the pension administrator PGGM, Rabobank, Nefarma (association for innovative medicines in The Netherlands), Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition, Philips, enterprise organisation VNO-NCW and health insurance companies Achmea and CZ are involved.

Unique collaboration
The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport labels the Delta Plan as “a unique collaboration between science, national government and private parties”. The plan contributes to solutions for different aspects of dementia and the many consequences it has for both the person who lives with it, their family, and the society as a whole. It will also contribute to increasing awareness about dementia.

Conscious  choice
“Not only current and future patients benefit from the fight against dementia, it also supports every- one around them who also suffer,” says Else Bos, CEO of pension administrator PGGM. “Dementia puts an incredible amount of pressure on the people who care for a loved one with dementia, the so-called informal carers. They also deserve to be relieved of that pressure. That is why we consciously chose to be a partner in the Delta Plan Dementia.”

Provide support
In addition, PGGM and Alzheimer Nederland also signed a letter of intent to collaborate in providing support to the large number of informal carers who are involved in caring for people with dementia. Both parties also intend to boost awareness and fundraising. All 570,000 members of the pension administrator work in care and social well-being. Else Bos: “People who work in healthcare will probably also take on the informal care for a family member with dementia. They will have to make big sacrifices, and risk overburdening them- selves. We want to support them as much as possible.”

Unsustainable situation
Robbert Huijsman is senior manager Quality and Innovation at the division Care & Health of health insurance company Achmea: “All over the world there will be a large increase in the number of people suffering from dementia. The World Alzheimer’s Report shows that the annual costs of dementia are USD 600 billion worldwide. The number of people suffering from dementia in the Netherlands will double to more than half a million by 2040. Due to ageing, the healthcare costs in the Netherlands will double to EUR 7.5 billion by 2040. Still, more than three quarters  of  all  people  with  dementia  live at home, where they are cared for by family or acquaintances. Overburdening of these informal carers is the main reason for which patients move to a nursing home. The availability of nursing home accommodation is still  relatively  high  in the Netherlands, but this will be unsustainable in the future.”

Knowledge, technology and resources
It is clear that public and private parties have to join forces to stop the increase in the number of people suffering from dementia. This can only be achieved by bringing together knowledge, technology, resources, and manpower. It demands a lot of skill and creativity to develop and test all kinds of new interventions using modern technology, such as home automation, robotics, e-health, and social media. It will be a tough challenge, but as President Obama of the United States of America stated when he announced his plans to fight dementia: “We can’t afford to wait any longer.”
Alzheimer Nederland will support the Delta Plan Dementia with an investment of EUR 12.5 million in the next four years. In combination with the contribution of the Dutch government, half of the money needed for research is already secured. An important first step, but to achieve the goals of the plan, it is important that more private partners and donors will support it.
 
Force breakthroughs
“The Delta Plan is a necessary consequence of the developments we observe and the experiences that patients, their carers and scientists share with us,” says Gea Broekema-Procházka, Executive Director of Alzheimer Nederland. “For many years now, we have been drawing attention to this social problem that everyone will have to deal with in the future. We have to join forces now. Only then will we be able to force breakthroughs in research, such as those we have seen in cancer research.”
 
Maria van der Hoeven, President of the Supervisory Board of Alzheimer Nederland and former Minister of Economic Affairs regards the financial contribution of the Dutch government as a powerful signal. “Finally, dementia is being recognised as a major social problem for which we have to find a solution together. Moreover, the investment in scientific research shows that the government has a proactive long term vision on fighting dementia.”
 
We have to join forces now. Only then will we be able to force breakthroughs in research, such as those we have seen in cancer research.

Precursors
Prof. Philip Scheltens is a neurologist and director of the Alzheimer Centre at the VU University Medical Centre. This centre, and the other three Dutch Alzheimer Centres in Nijmegen, Maastricht and Rotterdam, play a prominent role in international scientific research on dementia. Prof Scheltens said: “There will be an increasing chance of a significant breakthrough in the treatment of, or even a cure for, dementia if we invest in scientific research. We have seen this in the field of oncology: more investment will bring us closer to a solution.

The Netherlands plays an important role in international research into dementia. We are pioneers in early diagnostics, genetics, and research into quality of life. These successes improve treatment and make care more efficient, more effective, and more personal. It is predicted that this will significantly save costs and improve the quality of life of both patients and their families.”

Prevent and cure
Prof. Scheltens, being a member of the American Initiative Dementia 2025, says: “By 2025, President Obama wants us to be able to treat dementia. But if we want to be able to prevent the illness in the future, we need to know more about its causes. I hope I will live to see that day. Sadly, I have nothing to offer to patients who suffer from dementia at this time. That is why I have invested a lot of time and energy in helping to draw up the Delta Plan Dementia. I became a doctor because I want to be able to cure people.”

Today’s patient
Research has given us important tools to help today’s patient and his carer. “Cognitive training and adaption of the patient’s living surroundings to his needs and wishes can improve quality of life and reduce behavior al problems.” Says sociologist, Director of the Radboud  Alzheimer Centre in Nijmegen and Chair of Interdem Prof. Myrra Vernooij-Dassen. “Furthermore, research had pro- vided us with therapies to help the informal carer to cope with the situation. Thereby suspending care in nursing homes and cutting costs. These successes make it very important to speed up the implementation of these proven effective therapies and treatments. This is a field in with research can help identify and overcome obstacles that delay the application of beneficial new ways to care for people with dementia and their carers.”

There will be an increasing chance of a significant breakthrough in the treatment of, or even a cure for, dementia if we invest in scientific research.

Other contributing partners of the Delta Plan Dementia explain why they are participating in Plan…
Royal Philips Electronics N.V: “Philips aims to develop meaningful innovations in healthcare. We gladly cooperate on work towards solutions for the future.”

CZ, healthcare provider: “We want to enable self-management for people with dementia and their families by making care more efficient and more effective.”
Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition: “Our view is that medical nutrition makes a substantial difference in the lives of patients. That’s why we support the Delta Plan Dementia.”
Vilans, knowledge of long-term care: “Vilans is participating because they see it as their job to make sure that the right people do the right job in the right place.”
Nefarma, association for innovative medicines in the Netherlands: “The Delta Plan further stimulates drug trials and it can also ensure that new treatments and/or cures will be quickly available to patients.”
 
Early diagnosis
Prof. Frans Verhey, psychiatrist and director of the Alzheimer Centre in Maastricht sees that peo- ple want to know if they have dementia as early as possible. “Twenty years ago you didn’t mention the diagnosis to the patient. Now they want to know what’s the matter and what they can expect in the future. The Delta Plan Dementia can help us improve diagnoses and predict the progress of the disease. People find it very important to know if they can take care of themselves in the future.”

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Source: Dementia in Europe

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