WHY SET UP A RESEARCH CENTRE FOR DEGENERATIVE DEMENTIAS?
With the ageing of the population, cases of primary degenerative dementia are on the increase. The forms of dementia that fall into this category are all characterised by a progressive decline in cognitive function and loss of the autonomy necessary for social interaction and a satisfactory social life.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent and most well-known form of dementia, but there are also others which, although less frequent, are just as devastating: vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, and so on.
Dementia disorders show marked clinical heterogeneity and each patient’s care needs are different, a circumstance that exposes a general lack of specific training among staff caring for these patients.
The size of the problem becomes clear when the number of affected individuals (around 500,000 in Italy) and the growing demand for specific services are compared with the number of diagnostic and care facilities equipped to provide such services; and also when considering the fact that each of these facilities operates according to its own protocols and objectives, which are therefore not fully standardised across centres.
There is a particular shortage of specific diagnostic services, particularly ones providing diagnosisbased on genetic characterisation and biological markers of disease.
On the basis of these considerations, the Foundation has identified three priority areas of research:
- The evaluation and development of new care and treatment models, through in-depth study of related clinical, psychological and social aspects. This area of research also includes evaluation of the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of proposed new models and other related areas of study: the training of formal and informal carers, the provision of consultancy and counselling, and the development of service planning guidelines, as well as the study of mental function in ageing.
- The study of anatomical, pathophysiological and biochemical alterations in the brains of degenerative dementia patients; comparative studies with ageing in cognitively healthy individuals.
- Study of the genetic basis of the above-mentioned diseases.