We can improve care and do important research by working collaboratively with people with different experiences and backgrounds. That might involve working with people from different professional backgrounds (a clinician, a commissioner, a support worker) or those with lived experiences (people with dementia and their families).
We can also learn by looking at what other countries are up to in terms of dementia care and setting priorities. (Side note: I totally didn’t get the idea for this blog by Brexit looming around the corner). I remember being at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Europe conference in Glasgow presenting some of my dementia research, listening to plenty of really interesting findings in dementia care, and meeting lots of researchers I am still connected with! But most importantly, at this conference, attendees signed the Glasgow Declaration for a European dementia strategy and national strategies in every European country.
So, close to 5 years later, where is everyone up to? Thankfully, Alzheimer’s Europe has kept a log of each individual national dementia strategy, which saves a lot of individual searching. Back in May 2017, 19 countries has a national dementia strategy in place: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Greece, and Malta (assuming google is correct).
Out of all these, France has been the very first to implement a national plan back in 2001. Looking at my own home country, Germany is in the development stages of a national dementia strategy. With a team of experts having met in January this year, the strategy is still a little off from being implemented, but it is so good to see that Germany finally is tackling this issue head first. Considering that there are about 1.7 million people living with dementia, it seems strange that it has taken so long for Germany to jump on board and develop their own strategy.
Looking at some other European countries, Spain for example has a national strategy on neurodegenerative disease in place since 2016, covering dementia and all other types of neurodegenerative conditions. Denmark has had their first national plan in place since 2010, with a second one being launched in 2016.
And the Netherlands have a so called Delta Plan for Dementia in addition to their national strategy. This Delta Plan focuses explicitly on the need for international collaboration, as this is the best way to move dementia research forward.
There are many aspects of dementia care and cure research that still need to be addressed, and it is great to see that so many European countries have their own national strategies in place. As highlighted nicely by the Dutch Delta Plan, the best way to move forward and improve research and care in dementia is to work collaboratively, and often internationally. One organisation that can support this is surely the European Alzheimer’s Alliance – a working group of members of the EU parliament whose mission it is to make dementia a public health priority and raise awareness on national levels and across Europe.
So when you look around, you can actually find a lot of strategies and priority settings in place in dementia. Now it’s only up to us researchers to make use of those and implement them!
Dr Clarissa Giebel is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Liverpool and NIHR CLAHRC North West Coast. She has been working in dementia care research for over 7 years focusing her research on on helping people with dementia live at home independently for longer.
You can follow Clarissa on Twitter Follow @ClarissaGiebel