What WHO is doing
Rehabilitation and long-term care
Improving functioning through rehabilitation
One common consequence of noncommunicable diseases is loss of function leading to the eventual inability of an older person to remain independent. Evidence suggests that rehabilitation can reduce these problems, shorten hospital stays and improve quality of life. WHO is producing guidelines on strengthening rehabilitation service provision, which will be available in 2014.
Supporting long-term care
Information about the best models of long-term care in both developed and developing countries is limited. Gaps include information on quality, access and safety. We also need to understand better how to support the formal and informal carers who look after people at the end of life or when functional decline has caused a loss of independence. WHO plans to convene an expert meeting on models of long-term care for countries at all stages of socioeconomic development in late 2012.
Guidance on frailty
Frailty is an important and complex issue that is often associated with loss of independence, a need for long-term care and significant strain on families. WHO is working with the 10/66 Dementia Research Group, King's College, London and the Public Health Foundation for India to develop guidance and a new intervention package for frail, dependent older people in resource-poor settings. The intervention will target undernutrition, immobility, incontinence, falls, hearing and visual impairment and neuropsychological impairments (cognitive, behavioural and psychological problems). A key theme will be the provision of support and training to help carers cope with and manage these problems.
Providing palliative care
Palliative care should be available for all patients with life-threatening illnesses. Yet millions of older people continue to die in unnecessary distress and pain, simply due to lack of access to appropriate medication and support. WHO will work to provide recommendations on how countries can effectively integrate palliative care into their health systems, across disease groups and levels of care, to ensure the most efficient provision of palliative care and the best coverage for patients. In addition, we will work to develop guidance on what constitutes safe, high quality end-of-life care and look to develop technologies that facilitate such care, in partnership with nongovernmental and private sector leaders.
Improving care and services for people with dementia
WHO launched the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) in 2008 with the aim to expand care and services for people with mental and neurological disorders including dementia. Within mhGAP, an evidence-based intervention guide provides simple flow charts for management of people with dementia in primary health care by non-specialized healt-care providers.
In April 2012, WHO is launching the report Dementia: a public health priority with the objective to raise awareness of dementia as a public health priority. This report is a call for action at international and national levels to address the impact of dementia as an increasing threat to global health.