World Alzheimer’s Day brought together at the presidency the different associations and structures which fight to help patients and their loved ones. 17% of people over 75 are affected. The Minister of Health Cédric Mercadal announced better consideration of this disease in the next Health Organization Plan, and the reimbursement of certain medications to relieve patients.
Those involved in the fight against this neurodegenerative disease gathered on Saturday morning at the presidency, with the Polynesia Alzheimer’s Association in the lead, to celebrate, a little late (the official date is September 21), the dedicated World Day, in the presence of of its former president, Teave Chaumette, now elected to the assembly of Polynesia, and of its current president Yolande Chevouline. Raise awareness of the disease, raise awareness of the public and private actors who help patients and their family caregivers, in particular by providing training, insist on public authorities to make the importance and urgency of action understood as the fenua population ages, were the main objectives of this meeting.
Leading cause of entry into institutions for the elderly
Geriatrician Sandra Jourdaa presented this currently irreversible disease, which has long been confused with the natural aging process. But Alzheimer’s disease – named after the German doctor who first diagnosed it in the 1890s – was only truly characterized in the 1980s, she says, and much progress has been made in understanding it. in the last 15 years. It is today the leading cause of progressive cognitive disorders, and the leading cause of elderly people entering institutions. Except that in Polynesia, if patients or their families cannot afford a place in a private structure, they are condemned to stay at home. “A real public health problem”, with according to the World Health Organization a doubling of the number of patients every 20 years. In Polynesia the last known figures date from 2014, when there were 200 cases and 210 related disorders, but the doctor believes that the disease is largely underdiagnosed.
10 years of life expectancy on average
Symptoms generally appear after age 65, but the first signs of brain atrophy – amyloid plaques between neurons and abnormal accumulation in neurons of a protein which causes their degeneration and death – are sometimes observed around fifteen years of age. before the visible onset of the disease. Life expectancy is then around ten years. A difficult ten years to live with for the patient, but also for those around him. To the first mild cognitive disorders, such as memory loss, are then added reasoning disorders, such as difficulty organizing one’s daily life or finding one’s way in time, then behavioral, language and gesture disorders, which often accompany anxiety and depression, but also obsessive behavior or apathy, even hallucinations.
Dr Jourdaa insists on the need to carry out complete clinical examinations from the first symptoms, in particular to eliminate other possible causes, such as a brain tumor, poorly controlled diabetes or micro strokes in hypertensives. A “memory consultation” which can be carried out during the day in hospital at the CHPF and reimbursed at 100% is also recommended. These assessments must be carried out, professionals insist, in the presence of the person’s caregivers to be certain that the patient’s condition is well understood and care is well anticipated.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but new molecules show promise in inhibiting the progression of brain lesions and thus stabilizing the patient. Other behavioral treatments – antidepressants, anxiolytics, sleeping pills – may also be necessary, as well as non-drug treatments, such as speech therapy or psychomotor therapy. Finally, because reception structures are rare in fenua, family caregivers can receive training, such as at the CFPA, or be relayed by personal assistance services.
A big delay to catch up
The Country, represented this Saturday by the Minister of Health Cédric Mercadal, who confided that his family is also confronted with this pathology, wants to tackle the problem, in particular by better consideration of the disease and its consequences in the next health organization plan. Polynesia must equip itself with suitable structures, says Cédric Mercadal.
The minister plans to make the most recent medications eligible for reimbursement, which “allow us to last longer in a correct condition”. He also recognizes the delay in the country – the hospital still does not have a geriatrics department.
The Country subsidizes the Polynesia Alzheimer’s association and will continue to do so, assures the minister, “because it is prevention on the ground, they are the ones who keep things going, who support the families, and for the most part they are volunteers who have experienced this, they do a magnificent job. »
Among the partners of Polynesia Alzheimer present this Saturday, include the palliative care association Mania Te Miti, the Polynesian Personal Assistance Association, SOS Suicide, Tutelger, the college of psychologists of French Polynesia, the Polynesian Association of psychomotor skills, the Association of Dietitians of French Polynesia, the Synapse Institute, home care services, and the CFPA, which offers two-week training for caregivers. Latest partnership to date, that concluded with Taputea Ora, the association for mental health.