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28-30 May 2009 - "Stars for help" - Brussels

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Some 300 delegates (including, amongst others, people with dementia, carers, local, national and European policy makers and medical personnel) from over 20 countries participated in Alzheimer Europe’s 19th Annual Conference. It was supported by the attendance of Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde of Belgium (pictured left with Marian Thijssens) and hosted by the Belgian Alzheimer Association (Ligue Nationale/Alzheimer Liga) together with Alzheimer Europe.

The Conference motto “Stars for Help” sought to highlight the European Union’s (EU) significant advances in making Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia a public health priority. Opening the conference, Maurice O Connell, (pictured below) Chair of Alzheimer Europe, highlighted European advances that have been achieved, such as the EU French Presidency Conference dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease as well as the Council of Ministers’ recommendations at the end of 2008 which called upon the European Commission to promote European research into dementia and propose an EU initiative on Alzheimer’s disease. Belgian policy makers also participated at the opening ceremony, calling for intensive collaboration (Emir Kir, Minister for Social Policy and Family Affairs for Brussels), a national dementia action plan (Isabelle Paul, representing Didier Donfut, Minister for Social Affairs, Health and Equal opportunities for Wallonia) and a raising of public awareness (Laurette Onkelinx, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health, Belgium).

The focus of the first day’s plenary session was to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers. Commencing with the writer and poet, Marleen Declercq (pictured left), who has dementia, and Marian Thijssens, whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease, both offered thought-provoking and memorable insights into their experiences living with dementia. Presentations on Alzheimer Europe’s recommendations for quality care at the end of life and the assessment of quality of life in dementia followed. The second day’s plenary session was dedicated to the findings of Alzheimer Europe’s recent European Collaboration on Dementia (EuroCoDe) in the areas of prevalence, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, non-pharmacological interventions, socio-economic cost and social support systems for dementia.

Throughout the two days delegates had a wide range of parallel sessions from which to choose. The final session “prioritising dementia” considered how the different stakeholders were acting to improve the situation of people with dementia and their carers and included Professor Joël Ménard, the author of the French Alzheimer Plan, who explained that the Plan is novel in that its governance is based on transparency and a direct reporting line to the French President. Mike Splaine from the US Alzheimer’s Association, spoke of how the US is addressing dementia and Peter Ashley, who has dementia, presented with pride the English Dementia Strategy and the role of people with dementia in its development. Bringing great encouragement that the work to make dementia a priority continues, was Nick Fahy from the European Commission. Mr Fahy emphasised the role of the Commission in coordinating action among Member States to avoid duplication, assist early intervention and facilitate best practice as well as exercise leadership to support and raise the level of health throughout Member States.

For the first time ever, Alzheimer Europe was delighted to be able to offer some complimentary tickets to people with dementia. One of the recipients, Stewart Cooper, who has dementia, said of the conference that he “was amazed at the number of people attending, representing so many institutions throughout Europe, including the UK” finding “the depth of research by all these dedicated people (to be) amazing.”

Feedback on the two days was positive, with delegates saying that they found the programme to offer informative, interesting and comprehensive presentations; Indeed, some delegates found they were spoilt for choice with the parallel sessions as they said they would have liked to have been able to attend all of them! The bar for next year’s conference in Luxembourg is set!



Last Updated: Friday 23 October 2009