Awareness was on the agenda at the latest edition of ADA’s World Alzheimer’s Month Conference.
For over 20 years, Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) has been actively commemorating World Alzheimer’s Month (WAM) to help shed light on the condition and the stigma that comes with it. The WAM conference is the centrepiece of ADA’s campaign to spread the message of awareness, and has become an annual event which reaches out to persons with dementia and their dedicated caregivers, providing them with a voice. This year’s conference is no exception, which saw a healthy turnout of 454 attendees comprising of people with dementia, their caregivers, industry stakeholders and partners, and members of the public keen to find out more about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Jointly organised with Lien Foundation, the event spanned across one and a half days on 21 and 22 September 2018, with the first day targeting industry partners and stakeholders, and the next day focusing on leaving members of the public with more information about the condition. Held at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, the theme for this year’s World Alzheimer’s Month is Every 3 Seconds, which highlights both the alarming rate at which dementia is spreading and the imperative and urgent need to tear down the stigma associated with it.
“ADA’s vision is to work towards a dementia inclusive society. To achieve this vision, we will need the combined efforts from everyone so that people living with dementia can be integrated and accepted in the community,” said Dr Ang Peng Chye in his opening address.
Realising A Vision Of Inclusivity
One of the best ways to create a dementia-friendly society is to build inclusive and accessible communities, and few do it better than Mr Dennis Frost and Mr Nick Guggisberg, both key members of the Dementia-Friendly Kiama Project (DFKP), an award-winning community from Kiama, New South Wales, that is recognised by the World Health Organisation as the ‘Gold’ standard of dementia-friendly communities worldwide.
Both are also two of the conference’s keynote speakers, where they shared about their experiences running the project and offering perspectives on dementia advocacy through their respective roles. An esteemed panel of speakers comprising of experts, consultants, social workers, and caregivers also took to the stage across the two days of the conference to share tips and stories on battling dementia, allowing the audience to take home valuable insights and knowledge they could apply to their own dementia caregiving experiences.
“It was beneficial to hear from speakers from overseas, public, and private sectors. It gave an all-round view on dementia,” said Nick Low, an attendee who works for Equal-Ark Singapore, a centre for social-emotional skills development. “In this conference, I realised that people my age can be diagnosed with dementia, and how it affects not only the person with dementia but his or her family too. I really think that caregivers need just as much support as them.”
Anna Lane, a Research Fellow from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), concurs. “I found the session with Mr Dennis Frost and Nick Guggisberg very interesting. It is remarkable how you can include persons with dementia to share their own experiences through co-presentations,” she said. “There is also a need to increase community engagement and educate the public about dementia. This will make a significant difference to reduce the dementia stigma and encourage persons with dementia to come forward and be open and share about it.”
Making Every Second Count
In between the keynote presentations, the participants of the WAM 2018 Conference on 21 September also attended breakout sessions, where they attend sharing groups split among the three topical tracks of ‘Dementia-Friendly Built Environments’, ‘Disability, Not Disease’, and ‘Dementia-Friendly Efforts in Organisations’. At these intimate sessions, the audience can freely discuss their thoughts and ideas with professionals and friends based on the topics, picking up tips and eliminating misconceptions along the way.
“I find the breakout session on the personal narratives of caregiving very interesting and encouraging, especially on the sharing of Ms Lynn Leng and her husband Mr George Chong. George was so bright and active and yet he was still diagnosed with dementia,” shared first-time participant Helen Choo. “Dementia can really happen to anyone and at any age. My hope is that there will be more support groups, so that caregivers can come together and share their caregiving journey and support one another.”
The audience were also treated to engaging programmes that not only provided entertainment, but also highlighted the strength and spirit of people with dementia and their caregivers, such as the musical performance presented by clients from the ADA New Horizon Centre Toa Payoh, Jurong Point and Bukit Batok. All in all, it was a conference brimming with purpose, heart, and the coming together of people with only one mission – to make the world a better place for people living with dementia.
“The World Alzheimer’s Month Conference 2018 was a great opportunity for Lien Foundation to work alongside with ADA, with an aim to create awareness on dementia-friendly communities and striving towards a dementia inclusive society,” said Ivan Loh, Forget Us Not Campaign Administrator, Lien Foundation. “The most rewarding part of the conference was the full-day session for stakeholders which was fully subscribed, exceeding our expectations! It provided a useful platform for different stakeholders to delve deeper into the issues that interests them and the respective speakers within the different tracks were insightful in their sharing as well.”
The success of the World Alzheimer’s Month Conference 2018 was also thanks to the generosity of the event sponsors and their confidence in ADA as a mouthpiece and advocate for dementia awareness. “Ascension International chose ADA as a beneficiary as the association is the central body in Singapore for dementia-related matters including statistics, research information, training, and consultancy,” said Mr Lee Fatt Leong, Managing Partner of Ascension International Pte Ltd. “I believe the association is the best organisation to lobby for government support and resonate with their vision on working towards a dementia inclusive society.”
An alignment of interests for the health and well-being of our aging population also inspired Danone Nutricia to provide support on various fronts. “In Singapore, Danone Nutricia’s mission is to provide nutritional solutions that cater to the population’s needs, and to impact their health and well-being at key stages of their lives,” explained Country Manager, Vera Saw. “We understand from the statistics that the prevalence of dementia is increasing due to the ageing population, and it will be a healthcare burden to the nation. As a result, we have decided to act on two levels: financially support ADA in their extraordinary efforts to raise awareness for dementia and support caregivers and persons with dementia and bring in our latest innovative nutritional option, Souvenaid®, to improve the quality of life of the elderly with early Alzheimer’s.”