Press Release

IACHR and PAHO Call on Countries to Guarantee Access to Care Services and Medical Attention for People with Alzheimer’s Disease

September 21, 2018

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Washington, DC – To mark International Alzheimer’s Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urge countries in the Americas to take all measures needed to guarantee that people with Alzheimer’s disease have access to care services and medical treatment.

Alzheimer’s is the origin of almost 70% of dementia cases. In general terms, dementia is a chronic syndrome that gradually causes cognitive function to deteriorate, can affect memory, and is often coupled with impaired emotional control, changes in behavior, and/or loss of motivation. At present, 46.8 million people in the world 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, the global cost of this 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.

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

As a consequence, the IACHR, part of the Organization of American States (OAS), and PAHO are calling on the countries in the region to raise awareness of the effects of this illness and to respect the human rights of those who suffer from it by facilitating access to the best possible treatment and care so as to guarantee that patients and their families can live a life of dignity. They urge states 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 these people at both public and private institutions.

Both organizations believe that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia should be recognized as a priority public health issue. In this sense, they also call on states to invest in medical attention and care 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. The monitoring of healthcare systems must be improved, and more research needs to be carried out 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 sufferers and improve their quality of life and that of their careers.

The IACHR and PAHO call once more on 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 life of dignity, and to prioritize this group in the regional agenda so as to guarantee a sense of independence and autonomy that is rooted in equality and nondiscrimination.

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.

PAHO works with the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of its population. Founded in 1902, it is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It is the specialized health agency of the inter-American system.

No. 207/18