If you want to know more about what Alzheimer Europe does and how it support national organisations and campaigns on dementia issues, then have a look at their website here.

I wandered down to the conference centre this morning – only this evening realising quite what a circuitous route I’d taken. Anyhow, on the way in I met Patrick Slevin who is joining the conference from Dublin. It was good to see a friendly face a previous meeting in February.

Today Patrick and I were at the meeting of a group called INTERDEM who collaborate across Europe on psychosocial interventions, particularly in early dementia. I was impressed by the volume and range of work going on, and how the best bits of research and intervention are being shared across borders. In the UK we’re used to hearing about ‘dementia friends’, if you see the same somewhere in Europe soon it’s likely to be the work of the good people at INTERDEM. In the same way, a network of Meeting Centres for people with dementia in the Netherlands to help plan social care has already spread to Poland, Italy and Droitwich Spa through INTERDEM.

A highlight from the morning was hearing about the INTERDEM academy, which supports 100 early career researchers in psychosocial research. They have just received funding for 15 PhD studentships (that’s a lot!) in a number of different centres across Europe. They’re likely to be recruiting next year, so if you know anyone who wants to start some research in the area of dementia care, tell them to keep an eye on the INTERDEM website.

The afternoon session began with two workshops in parallel. I went to one titled ‘Social health’ and witnessed the debate and discussion that goes in to preparing an academic position paper which will hopefully come to submission in early spring next year. It was one of the more polite academic discussions I’ve witnessed, but not everyone agreed on the structure, the content, the definitions of subheadings or even the title ‘social health’! But, in the end compromises were reached and it will move forward. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished result.

Following this there were a series of excellent talks covering everything from the layout of grocery stores in Sweden, writing life stories in collaboration with older people (so-called narrative care) to helping people with dementia and their care-givers make better decisions. There were contentious issues, such as the paradox between evidence that socially active people with dementia do better, whilst many people with dementia do not want to increase their social engagement.

I have to admit that psychosocial care is not my area of expertise, and I wasn’t expecting too much. But I genuinely enjoyed the meeting. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that I had to pay attention and take notes so I could write it all down here!

As a gate-crasher from the Young Leaders Dementia working group, I was introduced and got to say a few words. It was great that people caught me afterwards to find out more, suggest members of their research groups who might want to get involved and to build links between the INTERDEM academy and our working group. Hopefully something will come of all the networking.

Finally, at the end of the day there was the opening ceremony. Unfortunately largely in Slovenian with too few translating headsets, but the last talk was worth the wait. Jean George from Alzheimer Europe charted the 25 years of the organisation’s history, starting from small beginnings of resources such as books for children on dementia (updated and still available) and moving on to the campaigning and advocacy work they have engaged in successfully since 2006. The European Union, the G8 and the WHO have all taken an interest in dementia over the past few years and many European countries now have a dementia strategy, in a large part thanks to the pressure and expertise of Alzheimer Europe.

After the formalities, a few drinks and some decent food. And a chance for myself and

dragon

A selection of the Young Leaders Global Dementia working group (and a dragon)

the others from the Young Leaders working group to have a picture with a real Slovenian Dragon! A pretty good end to a good day’s work.

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