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Helen Rochford Brennan gives moving acceptance speech on behalf of EWGPWD at Mano Amiga awards

Friday 14 October 2016

On 14 October, Helen Rochford Brennan, Vice-Chair of the European Working Group of People with Dementia (EWGPWD), travelled to Leon, Spain, together with Alzheimer Europe Project Officer Ana Diaz, to accept an International “Mano Amiga” award on behalf of the whole group. The award, in recognition of the group’s outstanding work in the field of dementia, was given by Alzheimer Leon, which seeks to identify and showcase innovative research and initiatives that enhance the health, wellbeing and quality of life of people with dementia and their families.

Ms Rochford Brennan (pictured left, with Ana Diaz right) said:

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the Mano Amiga awards. It is truly an amazing honour for me to be here to accept this award on behalf of the European Working Group of People with Dementia.

For people with dementia this is extra special, as many of us do not have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of people with dementia.

I have enjoyed every moment of my time as a member of the European Working Group of People with Dementia of which I am Vice Chair.

Being involved in advocacy has changed my life completely.

My family are thrilled to have some of the old me back.

I now have some renewed confidence and have moved from believing I could never do anything again to meeting all of you here in Leon especially Her Royal Highness, Queen Sophia.

In the course of our advocacy work we meet many Heads of Government and many politicians.

We engage with the European Parliament and the Commission.

We write speeches (writing is important to us). We advocate for the rights of all people with dementia. We have many speaking engagements- whether in our community, or with health forums- and we are involved in lots of research.

We travel the world to let people know we can live well with dementia in our communities with the correct supports.

Personally I feel grateful and blessed to be here today.

I am also Chair of the Irish Dementia Working Group, the advocacy work we do is only possible with the support and encouragement of Alzheimer Europe.

I do not have words to express what my own personal experience with The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland has been like.

It’s difficult to convey how wonderful the support I have received has been on limited resources.

The voice of the person with dementia is very important and our involvement is now very relevant all over the world.

We are heard because we are participating in research and helping to remove stigma by speaking out at events such as this one.

We have to come out of the shadows and we have had our voice heard.

The very best part of being involved in advocacy is all the new fantastic friends we meet along the way.

Having new friends in other European countries struggling with the same issues is such a special experience, because we can support each other and give each other all that we have to give which is “HOPE”, because, sadly, we do not have a cure.

To finish up: may I quote Jane Goodall “What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”.

May I assure you the EWGPWD are working very hard to make a difference for people with Dementia, not just in Europe, but all over the world.

More than anything we want to talk about the illness, just like we talk about heart disease.

We want timely diagnosis and above all else we want to remove the stigma associated with dementia.

Muchas Gracias!

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