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MATTERS OF THE MIND
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There is an urgent worldwide need to expand educational opportunities in the field of geriatrics and gerontology for all health professionals who work with older persons and to expand educational programmes on health and older persons for professionals in the social service sector. Informal caregivers also need access to information and basic training on the care of older persons.

Objective 1: Provision of improved information and training for health professionals and para-professionals on the needs of older persons.

Actions: (a) Initiate and promote education and training programmes for health professionals, social care professionals and informal care providers in the services for and care of older persons, including in gerontology and geriatrics, and support all countries, in particular developing countries, in these efforts; (b) Provide health-care and social-care professionals with continuing education programmes, with a view to an integrated approach to health, well-being and care of older persons as well as the social and psychological aspects of ageing;

(c) Expand professional education in gerontology and geriatrics, including through special efforts to expand student enrolment in geriatrics and gerontology.

Worldwide, mental health problems are a leading cause of disability and of reduced quality of life. Mental health problems are clearly not an inevitable outcome of growing old, but a significant increase in the number of older persons with mental illnesses can be expected due to population ageing. Various losses and life changes can often lead to an array of mental health disorders, which, if not properly diagnosed, can lead to inappropriate treatment, or no treatment, and/or clinically unnecessary institutionalization.

Strategies to cope with such diseases include medication, psycho-social support, cognitive training programmes, training for caring family members and caring staff and specific structures of inpatient care.

Objective 1: Development of comprehensive mental health-care services ranging from prevention to early intervention, the provision of treatment services and the management of mental health problems in older persons.

Actions: (a) Develop and implement national and local strategies designed to improve prevention, timely detection and treatment of mental illness in old age, including diagnostic procedures, appropriate medication, psychotherapy and education for professionals and informal caregivers; (b) Develop, where appropriate, effective strategies to increase the level of quality assessment and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and related disorders at an early stage. Research on these disorders should be undertaken on a multidisciplinary basis that meets the needs of the patient, health professionals and carers;

(c) Provide programmes to help persons with Alzheimer’s disease and mental illness due to other sources of dementia to be able to live at home for as long as possible and to respond to their health needs; (d) Develop programmes to support self-help and provide respite care for patients, families and other carers; (e) Develop psycho-social therapy programmes to assist in reintegration of patients discharged from hospitals;

(f) Develop a comprehensive continuum of services in the community to prevent unnecessary institutionalization; (g) Establish services and facilities that provide safety and treatment and promote personal dignity to meet the needs of older persons suffering from mental disorders; (h) Promote public information about the symptoms, treatment, consequences and prognosis of mental diseases; (i) Provide mental health services to older persons residing in long-term care facilities.

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