Paola Barbarino, CEO, explains why stigma presents a major challenge for addressing dementia in sub-Saharan Africa – and how taking an elevator can lead to greater support.
During my recent trip to attend the 4th Sub-Saharan African Regional Conference of ADI in Nairobi, organised in partnership with Alzheimer’s Kenya, I stayed at a local hotel with several African members of ADI. During the conference we had heard and shared experiences about serious issues of stigma and denial surrounding dementia in the region and how difficult it was to persuade the governments to do anything. That said, the Kenyan government committed during the conference to promoting an action plan on dementia by mid-2018, thereby proving that if people get together they can act as a catalyst for good.
The team had just returned to the hotel after a very intense session. On the television in the hotel lobby, the BBC were breaking news of a new study which suggests there is a link between the loss of the sense of smell and possible development of Alzheimer’s disease. We all cheered as any step forward, no matter how small, really makes a difference in our community, forever hopeful for a solution. Continue reading “Elevator pitch: A short story about the needs and hopes of Africa”
In spite of the complexity of transportation and numerous flight changes, most of us managed to make our way to the regional meeting and much was achieved, including the amendment of the Regional Meeting Guidelines which will now be put to the ADI Board for approval. Member associations also renewed their commitment to use the ‘Strong Association Framework’ and volunteered to conduct a self-assessment and report of this at the 19th ADI Regional Conference in New Zealand next year. There was also continued support for approaching the Asia Pacific region in sub-regions (South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania).
Once the conference began on the 19th November, the days were filled with eloquent speakers, abundant food and high quality entertainment in the evenings.
Kate Swaffer, Co-chair of Dementia Alliance International enlightened the audience on what dementia-friendly means to a person living with dementia. Kate was joined by Noriyo Washizu from Japan who told us about Uji, a dementia-friendly city, and Liyu Tang who talked about dementia-friendly stores and churches in Taiwan, where special prayers are offered to people affected by dementia on World Alzheimer’s Day. Meera Pattabiraman from India shared the news about the success of Dementia Guides in Cochin and the new Dementia Friends initiative across India. Jason Foo told the audience about the bottom up approach towards defining a dementia-friendly Singapore with various stakeholder groups, while DY Suharya shared the news that the Indonesian government has announced its support of making Jakarta an Elderly and Dementia friendly city. This passionate group was moderated by ADI Chair Glenn Rees who kicked off the session by explaining that dementia friendly communities have two different but complementary objectives:
To reduce stigma and raise awareness: the lived model
To empower people living with dementia: the right to respect and make decisions
We learnt a lot about the progress of the various countries in building dementia friendly communities, their cultural differences and how they are using innovative approaches. Looking around the room, I knew that I was already surrounded by an inspired audience.
Francis Wong, Regional Director, Asia Pacific Regional Office of ADI
The 18th Asia Pacific Regional Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International and 37th Annual Convention of the Philippine Neurological Association was jointly held with the theme ‘From Lab to Home: Alzheimer’s Disease in the 21st Century’. Delegates from across the region met in Manila, which produced a unique consolidation of ideas with one common thread, the desire to move forward.
My personal experience of the conference was exhilarating and interesting. I could identify with some situations in other Asian countries, particularly challenges relating to cultural differences and social stigma, which remains a big problem. On a more positive note, I was pleased to meet members of the ADI family, and catch up with some who I had already met at other conferences. These events are vital to exchange ideas, plan for the future and they provide crucial opportunities to share best practice and learn from one another. I have lots of ideas to take back to Mumbai.
I was delighted when one of the plenary speakers mentioned my poster, ‘Alternative Therapies with Special Emphasis on Yoga’ and I was also pleased to do a presentation on the Dementia India Report (2010). We have a vision of making India dementia friendly, and although we are still a long way off, I pray that in time we can make this dream a reality.
The conference programme featured a range of topics, balancing medical and research based discussions with sessions on holistic and alternative therapies. I learnt a lot in these workshops, as I’m sure did many of my colleagues. Through a no holds barred approach, many of the sessions saw speakers express their personal experiences of dementia unconditionally and lovingly. After all, what does ‘dementia-friendly’ actually mean? Is it not love, compassion and empathy? I think Florence Nightingale would be truly happy to know so many people had come together at this conference. How sweet this music sounds.
I’d like to thank Corrie Martinez from the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of the Philippines and Francis Wong, Regional Director for ADI, who did a great job looking after everyone. And I cannot sign off with a special mention of the Fellowship Dinner, with its colourful ambience and bamboo dancing!
All good things must come to an end. With a great balance for both body and mind (my weakness for yoga!) and having absorbed lots of new information and ideas, I returned home with great experiences and fond memories. I can’t wait for the next conference in Budapest.