DemCareDom: an alliance for the elderly with dementia

The Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) has as its institutional mission to seek scientific solutions to the challenges faced by the Dominican people and their global environment, and to train leading professionals, endowed with ethical, humanistic and Christian principles, necessary for the material development and spiritual of society. In these 60 years of history that our university celebrates, we have characterized ourselves by a leadership that transcends and we have stood out for the commitment to address health problems that impact not only our country, but also those of the world population.

In view of the increase in life expectancy throughout the world, aging has led to facing great challenges regarding the care and due attention that the elderly require.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that between 2020 and 2030, the percentage of the planet’s inhabitants over 60 years of age will increase by 34%, which means that one in six people in the world will be 60 years of age or older. . In other words, the aging of the population constitutes a major challenge to ensure that health and social systems are properly prepared to face this demographic change.

This aging of the population began to be observed in high-income countries, but currently the most relevant changes are observed in lower-income countries. It is estimated that by 2050, 65% of older people, or two-thirds of the world’s population over 60 years of age, will live in low- and middle-income countries.

That is why the United Nations General Assembly declared the period 2021-2030 as the Decade of Healthy Aging, calling for joint efforts between governments, civil society, professionals, the academic world, the media and the private sector to carry out concerted, catalytic and collaborative actions that serve to promote longer and healthier lives.

It is known that aging entails a gradual decline in people’s physical and mental abilities and is generally accompanied by other health conditions. Among them, it is worth highlighting the presence of depression and dementia. Therefore, it is necessary that the approach to the elderly be comprehensive and multidisciplinary.

We often hear that older people are frail and dependent. In some cases they are accused of being a burden to society and their families. All of this has a negative impact on the goal of healthy ageing.

As the world’s population ages, the number of people with dementia is increasing dramatically. Suffering from this disorder limits the individual in his daily life, affecting his memory, his behavior, his cognitive resources (ability to process thought), his language, the sense of reality, among other aspects.

Consequently, everything indicates that current and future health professionals must handle the different aspects that characterize this type of patient. Dementia is caused by various diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Currently, it is estimated that there are about 47.5 million people with dementia in the world. The number of these people is projected to increase to 75.6 million in 2030 and 135.5 million in 2050. Most of these patients will live in low- and middle-income countries. According to the WHO, approximately 15% of adults aged 60 years or older suffer from a mental health disorder.

According to figures from the Department of Mental Health of the Ministry of Public Health, during the year 2021 the prevalence of dementia stood at 8% for the population over 60 years of age in the Dominican Republic. This is equivalent to about 90 thousand cases.

Consequently, the mental health and emotional well-being of older people is one of the main health problems for the future. Health systems are not sufficiently prepared to meet all the needs of people with this disability or those of their family caregivers.

In order to give visibility to this problem, we started the DemCareDom collaborative project between the University of Furtwangen in Germany and the Faculty of Health Sciences of PUCMM in the Dominican Republic, which has been developed with funding from the German Exchange Service. Academic (DAAD, for its acronym in German). As a result of this alliance, professors from both institutions have collaborated to prepare the online course called: “Lifestyle, Mental Health and Quality of Life among people with dementia and caregivers: knowledge transfer and strategies for implementation of current community care concepts in the Dominican Republic and Germany”.

This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), has a program that focuses its efforts on educating students in the health area of ​​both universities, with the aim of improving care for older people with dementia, raising awareness among all the actors involved in the multidisciplinary treatment and care required by patients with dementia.

It contains not only conceptual elements, but also interactive ones and practical advice for those who will be in charge of caring for the mental health of older adults with dementia. DemCareDom is jointly led by Dr. Peter Koenig and Dr. Ulrike Lindwedel, both from the University of Furtwangen. On the other hand, the PUCMM team is led by us and is coordinated by Dr. Yokasta Germosen, Family Physician, Head of the Technical Advisory Unit for Community Services of the PUCMM Faculty of Health Sciences.

In this project, students not only learn to distinguish the typical symptoms of dementia, but also to distinguish the types of dementia, to learn about pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions, as well as to emphasize the humane and ethical treatment that caregivers deserve. family and professionals.

DemCareDom also promotes the defense of the human rights of people diagnosed with dementia. Starting from a scientific base, this program guides its participants to generate strategic and creative solutions that contribute to the care of elderly people with dementia.

This September 23 we will take 11 students and 4 teachers from the PUCMM Faculty of Health Sciences to learn about the multidisciplinary management offered to this population at the Furtwangen University School of Applied Health Sciences. This experience will serve to replicate similar care models in our country.

We are convinced that the approach to the aging population must definitely be a multidisciplinary, joint and collaborative action, between all the sectors that affect it: civil society, government, public and private health, the media, communities , the family in general and, of course, higher education institutions.

At PUCMM we train the leaders of tomorrow and, therefore, we are committed to integrating our students into projects with great social impact.

DemCareDom: an alliance for the elderly with dementia