The 26th Alzheimer Europe Conference (26AEC) was held on 31 October - 2 November 2016 in Copenhagen together with Alzheimerforeningen, Denmark’s national Alzheimer association. This year’s theme was “Excellence in dementia research and care” and the conference attracted over 710 delegates - including 35 people with dementia - with a programme featuring some 200 speakers and 160 poster presentations. The event was organised under the Honorary Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte of Denmark, who was also the first speaker at the Opening Ceremony.
Her Royal Highness welcomed the delegates with a special mention for the people with dementia and their carers, whom she particularly admired for their spirit and commitment. She was followed by Sophie Løhde, Danish Minister for Health and the Elderly. Ms Løhde focused on Denmark’s new national action plan on dementia, explaining that it aims to make the entire country a dementia-friendly society. Heike von Lützau-Hohlbein, outgoing Chairperson of Alzheimer Europe, noted that the conference would once again be a showcase of many great achievements in improving the lives of people with dementia. She also referred to the need for more and better cooperation among countries, inviting the delegates to attend the plenary session that would specifically address this topic. The next speaker was Birgitte Vølund, Chair of Alzheimerforeningen, who spoke of the Danish association’s work to eliminate all the taboos and stigma that still affect public awareness. She was followed by Merete Lind Larsen, a Danish nurse who is living with dementia. Ms Larsen was pleased to see the conference taking place in Denmark, as this would raise awareness of dementia and its many challenges. The keynote lecture was delivered by Gunhild Waldemar, Professor of Clinical Neurology at Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen. Her presentation “Improving the quality of health care for people with dementia” highlighted the importance of an accurate and timely diagnosis, access to local programmes for treatment and the education and competences among physicians and professional carers.
On 1 November the first plenary session, “A rights-based approach to dementia” was chaired by Jim Pearson, Director of Policy & Research at Alzheimer Scotland and Honorary Secretary of AE. The first speaker was Tina Leonard, Head of Advocacy & Public Affairs at the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, who presented “Putting people with dementia first: promoting a rights-based approach in national dementia strategies.” She was followed by Christine Swane, Director of EGV Foundation (Ensomme Gamles Værn) in Copenhagen with a talk on balancing the perspectives of persons with dementia and caregivers. Adrian Ward, a legal consultant for the Council of Europe, spoke about the Council’s activities on legal capacity and proxy decision-making. The final speaker was Richard Milne from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge. He presented the latest aspects of ethical challenges in contemporary Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials and research.
The second plenary session took place on the same day, in the form of a round table discussion with five global, European and national officials with an interest in dementia, moderated by Nis Peter Nissen. Mr Nissen asked each speaker in turn for a statement on their work, which was then discussed with members of the audience. Herta Adam, Deputy Head of the Health Threats Unit at the European Commission’s DG Health and Food Safety spoke about how the EU can support Member States in their efforts to address dementia. Tarun Dua, from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization, explained that the WHO continues to increase its dementia activities, such as supporting countries to set up national dementia strategies. Mogens Hørder, Professor at the Department of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, spoke about the activities of the JPND - the EU Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research, which gathers researchers from all over Europe and helps to locate and fill research gaps in specific countries. Anne Calteux, Senior Policy Advisor for the Luxembourg Ministry of Health, explained the principles behind the rotating EU Presidency and how Luxembourg made dementia a health priority during its EU Presidency term in the second half of 2015. The fifth speaker on the panel was Hilary Doxford, Vice-Chairperson of the European Working Group of People with Dementia (EWGPWD) and Board Member of the World Dementia Council. She explained that the WDC’s role is to identify areas that may be overlooked and to share knowledge from developed countries with those who are in need.
The third plenary session took place on 2 November and was moderated by Charles Scerri, General Secretary of the Malta Dementia Society and Vice-Chair of AE. The first speaker was Helen Rochford Brennan, Chair of the EWGPWD, who spoke about the impact of receiving a diagnosis of dementia. She was followed by Craig Ritchie, Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing at the University of Edinburgh. He explained how the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia (EPAD) project aims to improve the chance of successful prevention and to gain a better understanding of early aspects of AD before dementia develops. The next speaker was Steen Hasselbalch, Consultant Neurologist for the Danish Dementia Research Centre at Rigshospitalet. Prof. Hasselbalch showed how an early and accurate diagnosis leads to better-targeted pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments. Finally, Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, showed how national dementia strategies can help to transform the rights to choice, power and control for people with dementia and their carers.
The final plenary session was chaired by Prof. Hasselbalch. Alexander Kurz, Professor of Psychiatry, Technische Universität München began by discussing perspectives for the future treatment of AD. Geoff Huggins, Director for Health and Social Care Integration in the Scottish Government followed with a presentation on the 2nd European Joint Action on Dementia. “DEM 2” will promote the implementation of coordinated actions to improve the situation of people living with dementia and their carers in EU countries. He was followed by Frans Verhey, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry at the University of Maastricht. He showed how the “Actifcare” project is helping to improve access to formal dementia care. The final speaker was Prof. Iva Holmerovà, Director and Consultant Geriatrician at the Centre of Gerontology in Prague and newly elected AE Chairperson. She presented the results of PALLIARE and DEMDATA, two projects dealing with long-term care for people with dementia.
In addition to the four plenaries, delegates at 26AEC had the choice of 30 different parallel sessions on specific legal, ethical, scientific and human aspects of living with dementia.
The conference ended with an invitation by Sabine Jansen, Executive Director of Deutsche Alzheimer Gesellschaft - the German Alzheimer Association - to attend the 27th Alzheimer Europe Conference (27AEC) in Berlin in 2017.
The 26th AE Conference in Copenhagen received funding under an operating grant from the European Union’s Health Programme (2014-2020).
Last Updated: Thursday 12 January 2017