Remain alongside those who already have a diagnosis of dementia by strengthening the network of services and opening our eyes to try to intercept hidden cases and not leave patients and families alone. This is the goal of “Theseus: fragility and dementia in a community that cares”, a pilot project to support the elderly and people with dementia, which aims to network health and social services, assisting each patient with the figure of a case manager. Someone who takes care of the person with dementia and their family, lightening the burden of a condition that will be increasingly frequent in the future and which we are called to deal with.
Preparing the ground for the dementia emergency
Fabrizio Giunco, project manager and director of the Chronic Disease Department of the Don Gnocchi Foundation, is the one who tells all this and heads the initiative together with Airalzh Onlus, the Association for Social Research, Caritas Ambrosiana and Sociosfera Onlus. What the Teseo project aims to develop, he explains, is not so much the creation of new services, but rather a new management model for cases of dementia and mild cognitive impairment. To meet the needs of patients and families and prepare the ground for the boom in dementia cases that await us in the future: “The OECD estimates – recalls Giunco - say that by 2040 Italy will be one of the countries with the higher rates of dementia.”
Yes speaks of a prevalence of around 30 people per thousand inhabitants (today we are just under 25 per thousand). Counting people with dementia and those with mild cognitive impairment, in Italy Giunco estimates that there are around 3-4 million people affected. “These are indicative estimates – he explains – because we know that we often arrive at a diagnosis late, or it doesn’t even arrive at all, for different reasons: there is a lack of trained clinics, there is a lack of referral to specialists by families. and the elderly often live alone.” But increasing diagnoses means initiating treatment and care pathways, close to the person and their family.
by Valentina Guglielmo
Train volunteers to detect signs and symptoms of dementia
The Teseo initiative – financed with 600 thousand euros by the Cariplo Foundation, within the “Welfare in aging” call – aims (also) at this. An integral part of the project – operationally active from next January – is in fact the training of volunteers capable of promptly picking up alarm signals indicative of possible dementia: “We expect to take on people to assist with the training of Caritas Ambrosiana volunteers, who operate in parish listening centers.
Their training, which is now underway, will allow us to detect signs and symptoms attributable to dementia or cognitive impairment, initiating attention courses towards that person, reported to our operations center”. In fact, at the heart of the Teseo project is the operations center of the Don Gnocchi Foundation for services and rehabilitation. “The operations center actually already exists, what we will do is strengthen it, to make it a coordination center for all activities concerning patients, also with digital technologies directly accessible to family members and caregivers”, continues Giunco.
by Sara Carmignani
An operations center and a case manager for each patient
In fact, the operations center will function as a hub, networking the health and social services necessary for a person with dementia or cognitive impairment. To do from collector of the needs of patients and their families will be the figure of a case manager. An “expert companion” as Giunco defines him, someone who knows who to turn to for the different needs of patients, who coordinates appointments for them, relieving the family of the burden. “The services we imagine we will offer already largely exist, the added value of Teseo will be to recompose the fragmentation of these services thanks to technological interventions and social relations”.
Because simply, the expert admits, today too many people do not know the existing services – clinics, day and night care – or do not know how to access them. “What we have in mind is a protection and protection network for these patients, useful for promoting their well-being, a duty considering that the disease can last a long time, even twenty years. A friendly community, so to speak, to support dementia”, concludes Giunco. Something that, starting from Milan, can then lead elsewhere in Italy, hope the creators of Teseo, who hope to involve at least a thousand patients by the end of 2024.