Nov 27, 2017
by Tomas De La Rosa
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Changing Minds – Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities

Multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century to see policymakers, clinicians, carers and service users convene in Salzburg to address dementia care Photo: Vormingplus Gent-Eeklo/Creative Commons

Dementia, according to the US-based Mayo Clinic, is not a specific disease but rather “a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.” Due to the variety of health issues that involve memory loss, ensuring people with dementia receive the correct support is often a challenge, as each case possesses a different cause. Additionally, traditional health care models often fall short for people and families affected by dementia, due to the co-morbidities experienced in later life and because these models focus primarily on the physical health process and not on the full lived experience.

Dementia is considered to be as one of the most serious and growing health challenges for health care services, social care, and communities and families, especially in countries with aging populations. The high costs that come with the care required by people with dementia also represent a significant challenge, as according to the 2015 World Alzheimer Report, worldwide costs of dementia in 2015 represented nearly 1.1% of global GDP.

From Tuesday, and for the next five days, approximately 40 participants from 14 different countries, will convene at Schloss Leopoldskron, in Salzburg, Austria. The Salzburg Global Seminar session, Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities, will see policymakers, clinicians, carers and service users discuss the challenges and stigmas people with dementia go through, ways of offering better support for them and their families, as well as how the concept of dementia-friendly communities and their innovations can vary from a country to another, and the importance and potential advantages, or harms, of early diagnosis.

Part of the multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century, it is expected the session will build on the discussions of past sessions, as well as yield new cross-border collaborations between participants to share their best innovation practices in dementia care and dementia-friendly community, create action plans devised for specific country or thematic contexts, and work on a Salzburg Statement on principles that should guide innovation in dementia care.

Previous sessions have resulted in successful campaigns such as the Salzburg Statement On Shared Decision Making from the 2010 session, The Greatest Untapped Resource in Health Care? Informing and Involving Patients in Decisions about Their Medical Care and the nine “Salzburg Questions” that came as a result of last December’s session, Rethinking Care: Toward the End of Life. Using the hashtag #allmylifeQs, participants, peers and interested members of the general public joined together on Twitter on a monthly basis to answer challenging questions about how we wish for ourselves, patients and loved ones to be treated in our dying days. It is expected that this year’s session will provoke similar difficult yet productive debate.

On the importance of this year’s session and its discussions, Salzburg Global Program Director John Lotherington said, “As populations age, more and more of us will live with dementia, with the still very limited prospects of health care interventions even just slowing its progress. But initiatives around the world to create dementia-friendly communities have sprung up to support people with dementia to continue living their lives to their full potential.

“This session will bring together people from around the world to exchange ideas, debate what works best in responding to dementia in diverse contexts, and clarify how to extend and deepen dementia friendly communities.  And a hypothesis is that such efforts in relation to dementia are also enhancing the humane values at the heart of communities in general.”

The session, Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities, is part of Salzburg Global Seminar multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century. This year’s session is held in partnership with The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice and The Mayo Clinic. To keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the session, follow #SGShealth on Twitter and Instagram.