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Getting it right for dementia

dementia care future of
dementia care future of

Jeremy Hughes

CEO, Alzheimer’s Society & Chair, Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance (GADAA)

What is the first word that you think of when you hear the word ‘dementia’? ‘Old’, ‘forgetful’, ‘senile’? These stereotypes reflect how society views dementia and just how much fear and misunderstanding is still associated with it.

The stigma and discrimination people with dementia and their families face affects every aspect of their lives. This can range from feeling isolated and lonely because friends have stopped visiting, to facing violence, ostracism and aggression in some parts of the world.

The world can become more dementia friendly, with the emphasis on ‘can’ because it can be done, as long as everyone starts working together.

Now think of words, or better still actions, that can break the stigma and make the world a better place for the 47 million people living with dementia globally. You might think of ‘rights’, ‘support’ and ‘acceptance’.

Dementia Friends, pioneered by Alzheimer’s Society and inspired by a similar programme in Japan, is a social movement challenging individuals, businesses, and whole communities to take action and change the way people think, act and talk about dementia. We recently asked people in the UK living with dementia or supporting loved ones, ‘how can the world become more dementia friendly?’ Their answers were overwhelmingly positive:

To truly make our world dementia friendly, we need to work together across international borders to support and nurture emerging dementia-friendly movements. We also need to support and encourage the work of governments, civil society, researchers and the World Health Organisation to uphold the rights and needs of people with dementia and recognise it as a public health priority.  Forging partnerships and working together to challenge the stigma is at the heart of the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance, a network of international charities seeking to champion global action on dementia.

Earlier this month, I took the voices of people living with dementia to governments, voluntary organisations, researchers and businesses at a G7 side event organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Japan. I was also privileged to deliver a special Dementia Friends session for WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, in collaboration with Japanese partners. 

Chris Roberts’ closing words particularly resonated with the global audience, “If you get it right for dementia you get it right for everybody.” Now that is surely a common goal the world can embrace.

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