Remaining energy level: 0%. Inspiration and great memories to take home: 200%! That’s what the five day long 587th Salzburg Global Seminar ‘Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities’ was all about. From the 28th of November to the 2nd of December 40 participants from 14 countries spent four and a half days discussing the stigma surrounding dementia and what a dementia-friendly community entails. The Salzburg Global Seminar is a highly interactive, multidisciplinary and cross cultural platform that facilitates networking, project development and sharing of good practices.
Empowerment and reducing stigma
The seminar started with a panel discussion on stigma and the necessity of raising awareness on dementia as a starting point for future initiatives. During this first panel session, I was truly inspired by the different contexts of stigma around the world and the great discussion we had together with colleagues from India, Costa Rica, USA and Wales. On behalf of Wales Chris Roberts (who lives with dementia) and his wife Jayne (who cares for him) took part and gave great insight and motivation for future initiatives in the field. It was a great honor to share our Flemish vision on empowerment of people with dementia and reducing stigma. For us it remains truly important to share our communication strategy on empowerment of people with dementia, because it’s a challenge we share across cultures, religions and distance.
In the other panel sessions there were a broad range of topics explored and discussed, but they all had one thing in common: they form crucial points of attention to make a dementia-friendly society work. The challenge of a timely diagnosis, the power of art to enhance communication and reduce stigma, prevention of dementia, sustainability of dementia-friendly communities and a better balance between formal and informal care to create integrated care pathways and move forward on person-centered care. The last two days were focused on the start-up of international project development focused on different dementia-friendly topics and developed in small groups.
Worldwide movement towards a dementia-friendly society
During the closing ceremony participants presented six sets of recommendations addressing different elements that make up dementia-friendly communities and how to apply them in a global context. Visions and future project recommendations were developed around:
- building on a general environment of inclusiveness and dignity
- research priorities in dementia-friendly communities
- community-based care and services
- creation of a roadmap providing guidance for effective dementia education and training programs
- an information library on dementia-friendly communities
- dementia-friendly innovations in medical care
- the start-up of a ‘Global Communication Network on Dementia’ to exchange good practices on awareness raising across cultures
As part of the last working group building on the communication network, I truly enjoyed the great discussions and effective project development with colleagues from Nigeria, Japan, Indonesia, Austria and the USA. I’m really convinced that this platform can enhance the worldwide movement towards a dementia-friendly society. And we’ll reach out further to other countries, both within and outside Europe. Together we can build bridges, strengthen relationships, broaden horizons and inspire each other to improve the lives of people with dementia, their loved ones and all caregivers. As anthropologist Margaret Mead said: never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. At the end of the seminar all participants agreed to develop a Salzburg Statement to use as a framework when approaching governments and organizations on dementia care issues. More news on this will follow soon.
Together with the extraordinary bunch of people in Salzburg I’ve enjoyed the most intensive, inspiring, enriching and unforgettable five days in my professional career. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude towards the whole organizing team. I’ve learned that cultures and distance don’t separate, but common goals unite. I’ve learned that building bridges across continents starts with dialogue, laughs and open-minded discussions from person to person. I’ve learned that happiness truly lies in little things, like your lost luggage that turns up after all, finally getting a decent night of sleep or enjoying great talks that refresh your energy over and over again. But most of all: I’ve learned that building on a dementia-friendly world is building on a human-friendly world, where people are respected, empowered and understood regardless their age, religion, talents or condition. And that’s a win for everybody involved, so the time is now to take the next steps!
Communication Officer – Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia
WYLD member and representative