Flanders launches dementia plan with focus on improving home care

Flanders launches dementia plan with focus on improving home care
Credit: Belga

The Flemish government has launched its third dementia plan, which will see the use of dementia experts being extended to home care to help family carers, ahead of World Alzheimer's Day.

The new dementia plan 2021-2025 was announced by the Flemish Minister of Welfare, Public Health, Family and Poverty, Wouter Beke, and focuses on prevention, optimising the quality of care - inside people's homes and in residential care centres -, and supporting informal caregivers.

"I only see positive evolution when it comes to what the government is doing, and the attention this plan gives to home care is proportional to the number of people living at home," Jurn Verschraegen, director of the Dementia Expertise Centre Flanders, told The Brussels Times.

Around 141,000 people in Flanders and the Brussels Region have dementia, and according to a recent projection, this number could more than double to 283,000 by 2070, if there is no medication for the condition on the market or if preventive measures have not yet had an effect.

Flanders is investing €159,500 to roll out the dementia quality framework in 20 residential care centres and home care organisations, with a goal to further optimise care and focus on the patient's quality of life and resident satisfaction.

'Desperately needed'

A recent study by the research group Zorg rond het Levenseinde by the UGent and VUB showed that seven out of ten people with dementia live at home, whilst around four out of ten patients die at home as a result of the condition.

Verschraegen highlighted that the most important addition to the dementia policy made in this third plan is the fact that the use of reference doctors for dementia, experts of the condition who are already active in care homes, will be made available in the home care sector.

"These experts are made available to other colleagues in the field who are dealing with situations that are problematic in nature, to inform them about how they can realise their approach in a correct, person-oriented way," said Verschraegen.

"I think that there is a great evolution in this respect and that the focus on improving home care, something that was desperately needed, is finally anchored in this plan," he added.

Beke highlighted that elderly people are living at home for longer, which he stressed is a good thing, however, it means that when they do move to a residential care centre, they are often in serious need of care.

"In order to meet these heavy care needs, we have raised the staffing standards considerably, so that we can absolutely guarantee the quality of care," he said.

The government is also committed to creating residential care neighbourhoods, to integrate the centres into the neighbourhood, giving residents more freedom.

Increase knowledge

The Flemish Government is looking to increase knowledge regarding the condition, not only among current but also future care professionals, including doctors, once again through the help of reference doctors, who can support general practitioners when it comes to making a timely diagnosis.

It is also working on a prevention campaign that is intended to sensitise the population to healthier living, and in turn, possibly prevent dementia in some cases, and on a monitoring committee that will analyse and oversee the effectiveness of the policy as part of this third plan.

Despite welcoming the "large progress"' that has been made through this plan, Verschraegen stressed that more needs to be done to inform possible dementia sufferers.

"I think that giving adequate information at the right time to the right people with the right tone of voice is something that can be improved on," he said.

"When you are faced with dementia, there is a certain sense of shyness, you don't dare ask other people the question, and it is only when you meet fellow sufferers and people in the same situation that a world opens up to you," he added.

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