Alzheimer’s is the main cause of disability amongst the elderly. In today’s ageing population this problem is only getting worse, with the worldwide rate of dementia set to double every twenty years. Alzheimer’s can be an extremely distressing disease, especially for those closest to the patient who can feel they are slowly losing the person they love. It also tends to be the child or partner of the sufferer who takes on most of the caring responsibility, often giving up their job in order to care for their loved one full time.
Research into dementias is particularly fragmented across Europe, which is why the EU has launched the Joint Programming Initiative for countries to coordinate and share their research more easily. Hopefully the initiative will help researchers build on the promising breakthroughs in discovering the cause of Alzheimer’s.
In the European Parliament we are calling for Alzheimer’s and other dementias to be declared a European health priority and in this we have even garnered the support of José Mourinho. We have also called on the Commission to add the ‘dementia dimension’ into plans for future jobs and growth, creating vital jobs in the care sector. Personally I included amendments urging not only for research into new drugs and therapies, but also for funding research into diet and nutrition, which is increasingly being shown to be an important factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Tackling this huge problem will not be easy, but I am delighted that we are making some real progress at a European level.