It is as normal for people to become a bit forgetful in old age as the fact that many seniors can hear and see worse than in their youth. But this cannot be compared with the difficulties that arise with Alzheimer’s disease.
“The police are called first when everyone doesn’t know what to do next,” said Sabine Köpf on Wednesday in the state parliament’s health committee. Köpf heads the Brandenburg competence center dementia. There are such centers in many places in Germany. The center for the state of Brandenburg was launched in 2016. Since then, 2,653 relatives of demented patients have completed a one and a half hour nursing course with the help of the competence center. Social judges, general practitioners, taxi drivers, caretakers from housing associations, rural women – and police officers were also trained in dealing with people with dementia. Because the police are always or at least often alerted when the elderly have disappeared without being found or are found disoriented by passers-by.
It is possible that people who do not yet have severe dementia will continue to live in their own homes, it is possible that they will not have to go to a nursing home straight away. However, dealing with them requires sensitivity and some basic knowledge of suffering. The competence center offered all of the Brandenburg police stations to train their colleagues in this regard, reported Sabine Köpf. Before the corona lockdowns, however, only one police station could actually be visited by the experts.
Last year the competence center offered 44 courses. Some then had to be canceled because of the corona pandemic. “Our credo is that a training course like this should actually take place in every village of 200 people,” explained Sabine Köpf. According to her, it was helpful that it was possible to find a room for the training at a housing association in one place. That is lower threshold. In other words: it is easier for people to go there. Before that, they had to get together in a nursing home. But unfortunately that seemed a bit as if a nursing home was inevitable for dementia.
Around 67,000 Brandenburgers suffer from dementia. In 2009 only around 43,000 residents of the state were affected, but according to a forecast it will be more than 87,000 in 2030. This expectation has to do with demographic change.
Older people are more likely to suffer from dementia than younger people. In the age group of 65 to 69 year olds, it affects around 1.6 percent of people, in the age group of over 90 year olds it is around 40 percent. Younger people can also develop Alzheimer’s disease, but it is rare for them. It is estimated that there are only around 20,000 people with dementia who are younger than 65 years of age in the whole of Germany.
“We often talk about people with dementia, but we come to a point where we want to talk to those affected themselves,” said Sabine Köpf, who works with a small team – all women – in the competence center.
In the health committee, of course, Köpf could only talk about people with dementia and not with them. State parliament members such as Björn Lüttmann (SPD), Carla Kniestedt (Greens), Roswitha Schier (CDU) and Bettina Fortunato (left) had questions. For example, they wanted to know to what extent schools are involved in educational work. The base of the Alzheimer’s Society in Strausberg is in contact with schools, explained Sabine Köpf. But at the competence center, pupils are not the focus, even though the young people could have grandparents or great-grandparents with dementia.