Islamic values in dementia care with Dr Heriawan and Amalia Fonk-Utomo

Dr Heriawan, Amalia Fonk-Utomo and DY Suharya at WISH Qatar 2018

On 12 November 2018, ADI facilitated a seminar on Islamic values in dementia care at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2018 in Doha, Qatar. ADI’s Asia Pacific Regional Director DY Suharya invited geriatrician Dr Heriawan and Amalia Fonk-Utomo, Chairperson for Stichting Alzheimer Indonesia Nederland, to present. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to spread global best practice in dementia care with a local relevance. In this blog, Dr Heriawan and Amalia share their thoughts on hosting this insightful seminar.

Dr Heriawan

When ADI asked me to share my experience of working with geriatric patients with dementia at WISH, I accepted without a second thought. The presentation was about the interdisciplinary approach in geriatric patients with dementia, and the relevance of Islamic values and was attended by consultants at the Department of Geriatrics from Hamad Corporation; the CEO of Home Care Service in Qatar; nurses and therapists from Qatar; representatives of the Ehsan Foundation in Qatar; and the CEO and Director of Rosalynn Carter Institute, USA.

Geriatric patients with dementia pose very complex problems; regarding not only health but also psychosocial issues. Comorbidities are common in geriatric patients with dementia and, when severe health and psychosocial problems mix, they require complex approaches. As such, the involvement of family members and care partners are essential to ensure the patients’ quality of care and quality of life. There is significant evidence that Islamic values are concordant with the way we manage our geriatric patients with dementia. The focal point is the love and care we have for our parents and there are many verses in the Holy Quran that align with this:

 “And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as]”uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.”  Al-Isra: 23-24

“So, he (the Prophet Solomon a.s) smiled, wondering at his word, and said: “My Lord, grant me that I should be grateful for Thy favor which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my mother and father, and that I should do good such as Thou art pleased with, and make me enter, by Thy mercy, into Thy servants, the good ones.” An-Naml: 19

One’s age cannot be lessened nor added, as it has been decided in the Lauh Mahfuzh. Nothing is difficult for Allah swt.” Surah Fāthir: 11

This last quote has particular relevance to my work as a geriatrician. Geriatric medicine does not add years into life, but life into years; it is the quality of life that matters.

In the interdisciplinary approach, multi-specialists often treat geriatric patients in collaboration with other professionals, including dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and physiotherapists, as well as family members and care partners. Often, as professionals, we try hard to make sure each of our goals are achieved, but sometimes forget to communicate and work collaboratively to fulfill the goals of our patients. At the seminar at WISH, I wanted to challenge this.

During the seminar, we had a lively question and answer session, with participants asking some interesting questions about whether religious activities could play a role in helping the management of dementia, and how to increase the capacity of care partners. There were several interesting comments relating to Islamic values and end of life care, as well as the role of religious leaders in caring for people with dementia.

I felt the enthusiasm and passion of those who attended the event. Almost everyone in the room participated in the discussion, involving themselves in the dialogue between the speakers and the audience. The event was very meaningful for the Qataris as well as for us, marking the new development in the care management provided for elderly people living with dementia. New perspectives were recognised and insights were shared for improving the quality of life for our loved ones. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute.

Amalia Fonk-Utomo

At first when DY (ADI’s Asia Pacific Regional Director) contacted me about the seminar at WISH and asked me to share how Islamic values fit into Alzheimer’s Indonesia’s campaigns, I wasn’t sure if or how they did. However, after referring to verses in the Quran, I found that these values were subconsciously embedded into our work; in how we take care of our parents, the elderly and other people.

During the seminar, I discussed our campaign approach, which is as follows:

1. Start with a simple message e.g. JANGAN MAKLUM DENGAN PIKUN (Do Not Underestimate Memory Loss). Instead of a direct explanation of dementia, this slogan is much a less intimidating and easier to digest 

2. Combine with a small accordion brochure on the 10 signs of dementia –another simple tool which isn’t too intimidating.

3. Customise the message to your audience, whether it’s in a mosque, Quran recital, community gathering or spiritual discussion.

4. Maintain the same message repeatedly – reducing stigma does not happen overnight.

The seminar was followed by an impressive question and answer session, with stigma and caregiving coming up as the most popular points of discussion.

As somebody with no health education, being a participant at WISH was a very informative experience and I was so inspired by the enthusiasm of participants striving for a healthier world. Personally, I feel very grateful to have taken part in the session – I never thought my skills in advertising could be implemented to inspire people to make the world a better place.

Thank you to ADI for the opportunity, and Alzheimer’s Indonesia and Alzheimer Indonesia Nederland for the beautiful experience.

Dr. Czeresna Heriawan Soejono, Sp.PD, KGer is the Head of Internal Medicine Department in Dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM), Universitas Indonesia faculty. He graduated as a general practitioner in 1985 from the Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Indonesia. He has been practicing at RSCM since then and continued his studies at the University of Adelaide, receiving a Masters in Geriatric and Rehabilitation Medicine. He is also Chairman of Perhimpunan Gerontologi Medik Indonesia (PERGEMI).

Amalia Fonk-Utomo has a creative design background and has spent most of her life in creative departments. After many years working for multinational agencies she started her own agency, which led her to voluntary work with Alzheimer Indonesia. Her campaign idea “Jangan Maklum Dengan Pikun” (Do not under estimate memory loss) was created from a deep insight into Indonesian stigma of Pikun (Memory loss), and her agency’s ’10 signs’ brochure designs have been adapted into many languages. Amalia is Chairperson of Stichting Alzheimer Indonesia Nederland Foundation.

Want to know more about WISH Qatar? Watch ADI’s Chief Executive Officer Paola Barbarino in the opening video of WISH 2018 on ADI’s YouTube channel