Header image for news printout

“They are not the only ones who forget” – UN expert urges States to remember older persons with dementia World Alzheimer’s Day – Monday 21 September 2015

GENEVA (17 September 2015) – Speaking ahead of World Alzheimer’s Day*, the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, warns that the situation of older persons with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is still not sufficiently addressed at the international and national levels.

In 2015, the total number of people, worldwide, living with dementia is estimated at 47.5 million, with just over half living in low and middle income countries; and this proportion is projected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.

“Older persons with dementia are forgotten, and their condition often exposes them to multiple forms of discrimination, abuse and neglect in communities and care settings.
There is a need to change the current paradigm: older persons with dementia should not be considered passive recipients of care, but rather active users who must be able to fully exercise their human rights.

As a starting point, States and other stakeholders must give more visibility by raising awareness of dementia and the rights of older persons with this disease. 

As there is not yet a cure, much more should, and can, be done to improve early diagnosis, to provide information, and training programs to care providers and health professionals, as well as families and older persons themselves in order to improve their well-being and quality of life.

There is a worrying amount of misinformation and a lack of knowledge among care practitioners about the specific needs and rights of older persons with dementia, which is aggravated by the limited availability of age-appropriate care in many developing countries.

Despite the fact that there are positive initiatives, with the adoption of national plans and strategies by several States, a human rights-based approach is still missing. The whole of society will pay the cost of the current inaction.

I therefore call on all States to urgently address the situation of those with dementia and to renew their efforts in improving the quality of life of the millions of older persons living with dementia nowadays.

I urge all Governments across the world to make dementia a priority in order to ensure that older persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can live with dignity and security.”

(*) World Alzheimer’s Day was launched by Alzheimer Disease International in 1994 and it is part of World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma.  Alzheimer’ Disease International is an international federation of 84 Alzheimer associations around the world. ‘Remember Me’ is the theme for year’s World Alzheimer’s Day.

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/IE/Pages/IEOlderPersons.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Human rights of older persons:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/Pages/OlderPersonsIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Mr. Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67 / khassine@ohchr.org) or write to olderpersons@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights   
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR

Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en