Support in Oman

My own personal experience of dementia began when my mother seemed to forget where she had put her things. Initially, we as a family assumed that this was simply a normal part of ageing, but gradually she started forgetting where she was and could not recognize the people around her, often repeating questions that we had already answered.

It was at this stage we realized that this was not a normal part of ageing, so we took her to various doctors for consultations, and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia changed her personality completely, and we didn’t know what to do or how best to support her. It was and still is hard witnessing her decline. I would spend the whole day watching her walk from one room to another, not knowing what she wanted.

She didn’t want people to do things for her because throughout her life, she was someone who was highly organized both in her personal and professional life. She trained as a teacher, becoming a Headmistress and finally an Inspector. Her personal life was one of refinement in her duties to her family and society. She was softly spoken, articulate, forgiving, and always finding good in others, seldom criticizing people; instead often invoking Allah to guide that individual. Continue reading “Support in Oman”

Scotsman’s message of hope to Japan

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As Glaswegian James McKillop strode towards Arrivals in Tokyo airport last November, he read the customs sign. Had he anything to declare? Yes – he had a positive message of hope and the strong belief in the right to live well for almost 5 million people with dementia in Japan.

James – his journey

Now 75, James was diagnosed with dementia at 59. After recovering from the shock and encouraged by staff from Alzheimer Scotland, he realised that he could still lead a fulfilling life. The challenge facing him was to find his voice to express his determination to do so.

Soon, James was talking about his experiences candidly in venues ranging from care homes to conferences. He became a key founder member of the groundbreaking Scottish Dementia Working Group in 2002. The Group, led by people with dementia, works towards making life better for people living with dementia.

James’ journey to Japan started when he met the NHK TV Director Yuji Kawamura in Glasgow. Yuji’s follow-up programme ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us!’ on the Scottish Dementia Working Group had a big impact, as the first Japan Dementia Working Group was formed the following month.

Now James, accompanied and supported by his loyal wife Maureen, was in Japan with his message of hope. He had been invited to appear at two ‘Heart Forums’ in Tokyo and Osaka. The theme on both occasions was ‘A new dawn – people living with dementia mapping out their destiny’. The message from James: to exchange learning and share lived experiences.

Two cultures, one experience

James was soon sharing his personal journey of 15 years living with dementia. Speaking directly, James admitted his initial shock on receiving the diagnosis and the dark days that followed and spoke about the possible roles and opportunities for people living with dementia within their community and in society at large. His audiences in Tokyo and Osaka were deeply moved.

Two founding members of the Japan Dementia Working Group also spoke. First, Tomofumi Tanno, a 41-year-old with a two year old diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, provided an almost mirror image of the experiences of James’ own journey. Next, Kazuko Fujita, 54, living with dementia for the past 8 years, said that her initial experiences had been similar. For James, Tomofumi and Kazuko, the months following a diagnosis of dementia were blank and bleak with no support. Such a diagnosis can have a huge impact on people with dementia and families, particularly when the community all around lacks awareness and understanding.

Breaking the silence

Someone in the audience asked, “How did you break through the period of despair and isolation?” Tomofumi said that meeting other people living with dementia gave him hope and purpose, and above all encouraging smiles.

Another person asked how to lead a fulfilling life with dementia. Tomofumi answered: “Once out of the blank period and hopeful of a fulfilling life, it is vital to speak up and speak out. As dementia is not a visible condition, those who live with it have to make their needs known.” James added that his “Helpcard” he carries has been very useful, which states that he is living with dementia and what his needs might be.

Tomofumi created the ‘Orange Door’ in his hometown of Sendai to provide a welcoming meeting place by and for those living with dementia, offering a listening ear, guidance and a sense of hope. Kazuko launched a local support group ‘Clover’ in her region Totorri, working for and with people with early-onset dementia. James co-founded the Scottish Dementia Working Group. Their actions remind us that people with dementia are agents for change and improvement. By cashing in on their lived experience, they are leading the way towards a better life for their peers and a more dementia friendly society by influencing policy.

Dementia – we are all in it together

Kumiko Nagata, a panelist, said that dementia is everybody’s business now. In Japan, 1 in 5 will have had direct experience of dementia by 2025. She emphasised the need for meeting people with dementia, if only to hear their voices and aspirations.

 James asked his audiences:

  • If your mother developed dementia, how would you like her to be treated by society?
  • If you yourself develop dementia at some time in the future, how would you like to be treated by society?

Looking to the future

To James’ astonishment he found that his Japanese peers shared the same experiences, mirroring his frustrations, fears and hopes to create a dementia friendly world, a better life ahead for the current 46 million people living with dementia worldwide – and for the many millions to follow.


By Dr Mayumi Hayashi from King’s College London and James McKillop, who is living with dementia

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Finding strength through support groups

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Alzheimer’s Association of Israel, or EMDA, is a non-profit organization founded by family members of people living with dementia, which aims to support these families. One of the services offered are caregiver support groups. Through the groups, carers can access information on the disease and how to deal with the health and social care systems.

The group sessions also provide an opportunity for caregivers to share their innermost thoughts and emotions in a supporting and understanding setting, receiving encouragement and drawing strength from one another. EMDA currently operates around 50 support groups throughout Israel that meet once a month, led by social workers or trained volunteers.

I attend meetings in Petah-Tikva. My father was diagnosed with dementia around three years ago. When it started, before his medication was balanced, I felt lost. I was looking for answers – how do I cope with this? What should I say? How should I respond? How does this affect my personal and family life?

I was looking for answers online and that’s when I came across EMDA’s support groups, who invited me to a meeting. It felt like I got to the right place at the right time. I learned how to accept this situation, how to take in any moment I had with my father, even when some moments were very difficult. There were also times, unfortunately only a few, when I could say: that was fun. I cherish these moments.

My father passed away 5 months ago. Yesterday I attended another support group meeting. I came, for the second time since my father’s passing, in order to feel a sense of closure. The first time was right after he passed away and my mother and youngest son came with me. I wanted them to share their feelings and to meet the people who were there with me for almost three years.

I first felt closure when my mother, overwhelmed with emotions, shared her point of view as a spouse of someone with dementia. My son, 18 years-old, had a strong bond with his grandfather. Despite my father’s disease and the deterioration in his condition in the last years, their relationship hasn’t ceased.

Yesterday, I personally felt a sense of closure and thanked the leaders of the support group who were there for me during this difficult time of my life. I wish to thank the leaders of the support group of the group in Petah-Tikva, especially Ruthie and Ilana, who were always there for me.


By Anat Aviv

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Contact your national Alzheimer association for details of support groups available in your area.

Creating a Dementia Friendly India

Over 4 million people are living with dementia in India and this figure is expected to double every twenty years. Here at Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), we’ve been attempting to define what a Dementia Friendly Community (DFC) might look like here, using workshops to get people talking about ways we can help implement these programmes.

We’ve so far conducted five workshops across India, in Trivandrum, Chennai, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Cochin, and were pleased to welcome 200 participants from all walks of life, including family carers, health and social care professionals and the general public. The workshops encouraged participants to identify the challenges associated with setting up DFCs, and ways we can overcome the barriers.  Lots of topics were discussed, but there were some key points which emerged from the session.

Working with the government and other partners

Everyone was very enthusiastic about working with the government and other partners, but there was a concern about how to go about it, given that dementia is unfortunately still a low priority for the government. India does not yet have a national dementia plan, despite the strong, evidence-based recommendations of ARDSI’s Dementia India Report (2010). We believe partnership is a strong cornerstone for success, so we discussed how local collaborations would be equally important among both governmental and non-governmental agencies to help maximise the impact of DFCs.

Using DFCs to raise awareness of dementia

Our estimates show that more than 60% of people living with dementia in India have never been diagnosed. Without a formal diagnosis, it is very difficult to educate and provide information to families to help support the person living with dementia, especially with regard to care skills. First and foremost, it is vital that we spread the message that dementia is not a normal part of ageing, and that more needs to be done to support people living with the disease. Creating awareness among a range of sections of society was identified as one of the most important factors in creating DFCs, especially amongst community level workers, social care and health professionals, to strengthen the current health system in India. A multidisciplinary approach is needed, offering robust care plans. It is our hope that by creating a ‘Dementia Friends’ style programme, we will educate the public on how best to support people living with dementia.

The banyan tree

Having an easily recognizable symbol for dementia friendliness is really important, so during the workshop it was suggested that we should adopt the banyan tree as the symbol for India. It is the national tree of India, and is associated in Indian culture with wisdom and ageing due to its longevity.

Moving forward

In a country like India, we felt it was important that a DFC scheme should include service development as an essential component. Supporting people living with dementia and their families throughout the dementia journey is really important, and there is much we need to improve. Over the past few decades, there have been big changes in the traditional family structures, more women now going out to work means there is an increased demand for external support services. Community level solutions which help respond to this issue and support families are also needed.

So what might a more dementia friendly India look like? Our aim is to develop communities that recognise dementia as medical condition and to be able to support people living with dementia and families, working within networks and partnerships to achieve these goals.

We would like to thank ARDSI Chennai Chapter, Nightingales Medical Trust, Bangalore, organizers of 5th International Conference on elder dignity and abuse, Centre for Gerontological Studies Thiruvananthapuram, India; 17th Asia Pacific Regional Conference of ADI, New Delhi and World Psychiatric Association Regional Congress, Cochin 2015 for facilitating these workshops.


By Sudhir Kumar and Babu Varghese

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