Heartware > Hardware: A Reflection on Hosting WYLD Members in Flanders

In conjunction with the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia‘s 10th anniversary, the centre held an international conference themed ‘Quality of care, living and life for people with dementia’ in October 2018. The Centre selected 3 global participants from WYLD to join a unique 5 day-study/field visit to Belgium in October 2018 to get a taste on the topic ‘quality of care for people with dementia’ in Flanders. Here is their reflection shared in hosting the WYLD representatives.

Flanders. A region in Belgium, where 132.000 people live with dementia and where dementia care is quite high on the priority list of the government.

For many years, the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia has worked hard to increase the quality of life, housing and care for people with dementia and their families. Quality of care is not bad in Flanders, but … we can do better. We can learn from the expertise of other countries worldwide.

That is why we decided to host a one-week trip for three members of the WYLD. We decided to pick the week of October 22nd 2018. This was the week where the Flanders Expertise Centres launched its first reference framework for quality of life, housing and care for people with dementia. This book is a blueprint for person-centred care for all health care organisations in Flanders. A milestone in dementia care for Flanders ànd the perfect moment to host three WYLD.

In 2017 we launched a call to all the members of the WYLD network.

Who wants to come to Flanders for a week full of field visits, presentations, workshops and a conference where the first Flemish reference framework for quality of life, housing and care for people with dementia will be presented?

Apart from the travelling costs to Belgium, the Flemish Expertise Centre on Dementia would cover all costs during the 5-day visit: accommodation, all meals, travel costs for study/field visits and entrance for the conference. The call was a success! It was a difficult selection process as it was very clear that every applicant was very motivated to share their expertise and learn from our country.

In the months that followed we had several Skype meetings about the selected participants interests. This was a basis for us to create an individualised program with field visits that matched their expectations.

On October 22nd we were very pleased to welcome Niamh Hennelly (Ireland)Melissa Chan (Singapore) and Molly Checksfield (United States of America). This was the program of the week:

Monday: Gathering in the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia for several presentations from the hosting country.Topics include young onset dementia, public perception of dementia, psycho-education, CASCADE project, longer at home with dementia, the role of technology, the reference framework for quality of life, housing and care for people with dementia.

Molly, Melissa and Niamh also presented dementia care in their own respective countries. They were then treated to a guided tour through Antwerp with waffles! and dinner with the whole team.

Tuesday: Field visits to nursing homes that are small-scaled and normalised, to dementia friendly communities and to a buddy project for people with young onset dementia + a free evening in Gent.

Wednesday: Field visit to a nursing home that is small-scaled and normalised. Reflection about the last two days: what struck you most? What do you take home? What did you miss? What can we learn from your countries? + a free evening in Antwerp.

Thursday: Attending the conference where the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia presents the reference framework for quality of life, housing and care for people with dementia: You and Me, Together we are HUMAN (ENG)

WYLD spoke at this conference and presented their impressions of dementia care in Flanders. Their conclusion that heartware (more than hardware) is essential in quality dementia care was a take-home message for the audience. The evaluations showed that their presentation was highly appreciated. We also had dinner with all the colleagues from our Regional Expertise Centres. Escape game in Brussels, a drink on a terrace and midnight guided tour through our capital!

Friday: Workshop on person-centered care by Prof. Dawn Brooker

Everyone agreed that the visit of the WYLD was a very enriching experience. We learned what dementia care looks like in other countries and we got inspired to extend and deepen the support for people with dementia and their family carers in Flanders.

We realised, for example, that we need to work harder on support for young carers and on technological ways to connect family carers. Their visit and reflections made us more aware of the fact that good care is indeed about the heartware, more than the hardware of operations. It is about inspired leadership, about values, about working principle-based more than rules-based.

We would definitely recommend all of you to host other World Young Leaders in Dementia. It is a very enriching experience, both for the host country as for the foreign visitors. We would be happy to share our experience with you!

Interested in finding out more about the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia and their work? Contact Olivier Constant or Herlinde Dely. Link to the digital version of the Reference Framework (English) here: You and me, together we are HUMAN (ENG)

We would like to say a big thank to you to the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia for hosting our 3 WYLD Members over the week in Flanders and for being such great hosts. Stay tuned for a reflection article from our members on the experiences from their field studies.