Alzheimer Europe held its 24th Annual Conference in Glasgow during 20-22 October 2014 under the motto “Dignity and autonomy in dementia”. This year’s conference was co-organised with Alzheimer Scotland and attracted more than 800 delegates, including 44 people with dementia. The programme included some 190 speakers and 170 poster presentations.
The conference opened with welcome speeches by Heike von Lützau-Hohlbein and Henry Simmons, the respective Chairs of Alzheimer Europe and Alzheimer Scotland. They were followed by Jeanette Maitland from the National Dementia Carers Action Network and Henry Rankin, Chair of the Scottish Dementia Working Group. In turn, they described their groups’ efforts to support carers of people with dementia and to readjust to daily life after a diagnosis of dementia. Geoff Huggins, Acting Director of Health and Social Care Integration in the Scottish Government, was the keynote speaker for the evening. His presentation, “A rights based approach to developing and implementing Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy”, highlighted many aspects of the strategy that was first implemented in 2008. The opening ceremony concluded with the official signing of the Glasgow Declaration by the speakers and also John Laurie, Convener of Alzheimer Scotland.
On the following day, the first plenary session was chaired by Charles Scerri, General Secretary of the Malta Dementia Society, with a focus on “Promoting a rights-based approach to dementia”. Colin McKay, Chief Executive of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, presented Scotland’s national human rights plan and its implications for people with dementia. He was followed by Matthias Kloth, Administrator in the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe. He spoke about the organisation’s promotion of human rights of older persons, including activities of the European Court of Human Rights. Grainne McGettrick, Manager for Research and Policy Advocacy at Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, presented the UN Disability Convention as an instrument for people with dementia and their carers. The last speaker was Maja Groff, Senior Legal Officer at the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Ms Groff spoke about globalisation and the protection of vulnerable adults abroad, including various solutions offered by the Hague 2000 Convention.
The second plenary session, chaired by Henry Simmons, consisted of presentations and a round table discussion on dementia strategies and policies. Alex Neil, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, opened the session with a rousing speech about the importance of involving people with dementia in all aspects of policymaking. He also became the first European Minister to sign the Glasgow Declaration. The next speaker was Jürgen Scheftlein, Policy Officer in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. He gave an overview of EU policies on dementia, such as the ALCOVE project and EIP-AHA - the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.
Mr Simmons then presented the participants of the round table discussion: Geoff Huggins, Dorothée Knauf-Hübel (Head of the Division de la Médecine Curative at the Luxembourg Ministry of Health), Benoit Lavallart (responsible for the French Alzheimer plan among the Ministries of Health, Social Affairs and Research), Charles Scerri and Marc Wortmann (Executive Director of ADI). They discussed the challenges of sharing best practices among countries that have varying cultures and definitions of patient needs and expectations. They also spoke about implementing dementia strategies in small countries such as Luxembourg and Malta. The panellists agreed that a successful dementia strategy requires political commitment at the highest levels, including long-term funding. Finally, they expressed their support for the Glasgow Declaration: a European Dementia Strategy would clearly be beneficial in countries that lack a strategy, but also as a benchmark where strategies are already in place.
Plenary session 3 focused on involving people with dementia and was chaired by Daphne Wallace, who is living with dementia herself. The first speaker was Helga Rohra, Chair of the European Working Group of People with Dementia (EWGPWD), who spoke about the changes in how people with dementia are perceived since her own diagnosis seven years ago. She was followed by Amy Dalrymple (Head of Policy for Alzheimer Scotland) who explained how the organisation’s “8 Pillars Model” is developing into an integrated health and social care model of support for people with dementia. Marie-Jo Guisset from the Fondation Médéric Alzheimer presented the activities of EFID, the European Foundations Initiative on Dementia. She focused on the “EFID Awards”, a campaign to reward local initiatives that promote social inclusion of people with dementia. The final speaker was Prof Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, Director of Nijmegen Alzheimer Centre in the Netherlands. She presented INTERDEM - a European network of researchers on early detection and psycho-social interventions in dementia - and expanded on the group’s current focus on dignity and the role of stigma in dementia.
The last plenary session was chaired by Henry Simmons and concentrated on innovation and care. Prof Debbie Tolson, Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice, showed examples of practice innovation in policy development, evidence-informed care and enabling the work force to become agents of change. She was followed by Dianne Gove, Director of Projects for Alzheimer Europe, who presented AE’s new report on improving continence care for people with dementia living at home. Hugh Masters, interim Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland, explained how specialist nurses and dementia champions are driving change in acute hospital care for people with dementia. The final presentation was made by Dr Kai Saks, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Tartu, Estonia. She presented the findings of the “RightTimePlaceCare” project, which developed best practices for the transition from formal professional home care to institutional long-term nursing care facilities.
Conference delegates were also able to attend 28 parallel sessions about legal, ethical and scientific aspects of living with dementia, including four sessions dedicated to Alzheimer Scotland’s activities. In addition, three special symposia focused on clinical trials, nutrition and cognitive function and the activities of the EWGPWD.
The conference ended with an invitation to attend the 25th Alzheimer Europe Conference in Slovenia. This was followed by closing remarks from Henry Simmons and Iva Holmerova, Vice-Chairperson of Alzheimer Europe. The 24th Alzheimer Europe Conference received funding from the European Union in the framework of the Public Health programme.
Last Updated: Tuesday 20 January 2015