Mexico is Unprepared for Dementia IncreaseBy Alfonso Núñez | Wed, 10/27/2021 - 14:11
Mexico and the US are unprepared to care for the rising numbers of seniors living with dementia as the age group is estimated to double by 2050, shows a new report published by The Gerontologist.
The study, conducted by public policy researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, presents findings from the consensus-building 2019 summit of the National Institute of Geriatrics in Mexico and the International Conference on Aging in the Americas (INGER-ICAA) held in Mexico City, 2019. Through these findings, researchers set out to analyze both the US and Mexico’s preparedness for an increase in each country’s dementia patients in order to make suggestions resulting in affordable and sustainable care.
The report found a shortage of high-quality care homes and insufficient geriatric primary care physicians and geriatricians in both countries, although the problem is worse in Mexico where an estimated 900,000 patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia for adults over the age of 65) each year.
While both countries were found to have similar issues, the problem in Mexico is more urgent, warns the study. Currently, Mexico’s 126 million inhabitants have only 700 geriatric specialists while the US counts with 7,000 for its population of 330 million. Community-based support systems for the elderly when they are no longer capable of caring for themselves, as is the case with dementia, also lag behind in Mexico. Instead, care often falls on the shoulders of the nations’ poor and women. But this care system will only become less efficient with coming years’ estimated population changes.
The Mexican fertility rate in the last 60 years has decreased from seven to two while life expectancy has risen from 57 to 75. In the last 10 years, the percentage of the population over the age of 60 has risen by 2 percent, a figure in par with the increased number of women in the country’s workforce. In the next 30 years, the elderly will form a quarter of the Mexican population, naturally increasing the number of dementia patients.
To address this, the report suggests an expansion of elderly care programs and a comprehensive federal health care safety net, while acknowledging the economic limitations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More geriatricians are also needed, particularly in urban areas.
“Advances in diagnosis, treatment and care management require additional knowledge and skills of general and specialized staff in the health care workforce to deliver evidence-based, culturally and linguistically appropriate long-term care and human rights-oriented services. We conclude with a discussion of recommendations for binational dementia care policy and practice,” said Professor Jacqueline Angel, lead author of the study.
The study recommends four areas of focus to address the issue and close the gap in demand and care for patients: Household Self-Care, Care-giving Assistance, Community Resource Policy and Organization of Care in Health Systems. Advises within include a dementia care equity and financing reform with a dementia caregiver policy, an increased use of technology in care systems, long-term care organization, person-centering in each country’s medical system and a focus on geriatric education curriculum.
Luis Miguel Gutiérrez Robledo of the National Institute of Geriatrics has seen Mexican policy-makers take note of the issue and begin to address it but said action is not being taken fast enough. As the Mexican population pyramid continues changing into a square, the country must prepare for the dementia health crisis that is bound to arrive.