By 2030 Cuba is predicted to have the highest proportion of older adults in any Latin American country. Today around 19% of the population is aged over 60, but in just 15 years’ time this will rise to 30%. Cuba is a middle income country, but has health indicators similar to those in high income countries, and a life expectancy at birth of 78 years.
As a result of the rapid aging of the Cuban population, it is estimated that the number of people living with dementia, currently standing at around 150,000, is expected to double by the year 2030. During the next 30 years, we expect there will be a tenfold increase in the demand for long-term care for people living with dementia.
The Cuban Section on Alzheimer’s Disease, in Spanish Seccion Cubana de Alzheimer (SCUAL), was founded in April 1996 and its main objectives have been to give information about dementia and educate family members and professionals, as well as to improve medical care for people living with dementia. In 2000, SCUAL became a member of ADI.
Over the past 8 years, SCUAL have participated in a national program to assist people who are living with a disability, and to promote early diagnosis of dementia and risk reduction programmes. To date, more than 40,000 people over the age of 65 have taken part. The programme also helps to support families and training for health professionals. SCUAL collaborated to develop an intervention program called ‘Helping carers to care’, which provides basic education about dementia and specific training on managing behaviours.
SCUAL also participates in the work of the 10/66 Dementia Research Project, a network of over 100 active researchers from more than 30 low and middle income countries who are studying the prevalence and impact of dementia. In Cuba, more than 3,000 participants have been interviewed so far. SCUAL is now supporting a new project by the 10/66 team, to help understand changes in prevalence and incidence over a 10 year timeframe. The project also focuses on the social impact of dementia and how best to identify underlying risk factors and implement care packages.
The Cuban’s National Dementia Strategy has been developed by SCUAL in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, working together with researchers from several fields and with families and caregivers of people living with dementia. The plan has recommended that the strategy focus on increasing awareness, developing support services, promoting early diagnosis and risk reduction, quality assessment and implementing good clinical practice guidelines. It also asserts that there should be an increase in the availability of specialists in primary healthcare and in investment into dementia research.
SCUAL undertakes a wide variety of activities to help improve awareness about dementia in Cuba, including an annual conference and a campaign for World Alzheimer’s Month and the World Alzheimer Report, including an annual Memory Walk on September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day.
In 2011, Cuba was also the venue of the Iberoamerican Congress on Alzheimer’s Disease, one of ADI’s regional meetings, where 500 attendances from Latin America, Spain and other countries came together to discuss how to improve the lives of people with dementia in the region.
By Juan de Llibre Rodriguez, President of SCUAL