To address dementia as a global challenge, the 70th World Health Assembly adopted the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025 in May 2017. The action plan represents an international commitment to improving the lives of people with dementia, their carers, and families. It includes seven action areas:
- dementia as a public health priority;
- dementia awareness and friendliness;
- dementia risk reduction;
- dementia treatment, care, and support;
- support for dementia carers;
- information systems for dementia;
- and dementia research and innovation.
The action area focusing on dementia awareness and friendliness specifically aims at improving communities’ understanding of dementia and creating dementia-inclusive societies where people with dementia can live meaningfully, safely and with dignity.
In this regard, The World Health Organisation (WHO) developed ‘Towards a dementia inclusive society: WHO toolkit for dementia-friendly initiatives’ to support individuals, communities and countries in empowering people with dementia to remain in, and be a significant part of, their communities. We are proud to share that the work of Alzheimer Bulgaria Association is featured in the toolkit as a case study, which exemplifies how to successfully translate a positive vision about dementia into key focus areas. We aspire to raise awareness on dementia among the general public by collaborating with stakeholders from different fields and working with a variety of different audiences. The toolkit describes how we manage to successfully disseminate information about dementia by:
- organising information sessions in universities;
- developing training programs for volunteer dementia befrienders who visit elderly people with dementia in nursing homes;
- carrying out collaborative projects with leading companies in Bulgaria, such as ‘Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)’, as well as non-profit organisations, such as ‘5kmrun’, which supported us in organising charity mini-marathons dedicated to dementia prevention in the last years.
By working on specific focus areas with concrete audiences, we can effectively present the topic of dementia and reach a significant number of target groups.
The toolkit provides other examples of successful dementia-friendly and inclusive initiatives in countries with different standards of living. Some interesting examples include selling wristbands and setting up information booths in shopping malls to increase knowledge of dementia by ‘Alzheimer’s and Dementia Organization Kenya’; a gym group where people with dementia, accompanied by family members, meet on a weekly basis to exercise, talk and share experiences of ‘Federazione Alzheimer Italia’ (Italy); creating the Dementia Friendly Spots programme of ‘Spominčica – Alzheimer Slovenija’ (Slovenia), which is a national awareness-raising programme connecting service provider organisations in a network of information points about dementia at the local level, such as shops, libraries, pharmacies, community healthcare centres; and even preparing a user-friendly programme for people living with dementia to exercise their right to vote by ‘Alzheimer Nederland’ in The Netherlands.
The toolkit’s person-centered, rights-based approach is grounded in international commitments, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and can be easily and effectively implemented by communities worldwide to raise awareness of dementia and improve the quality of life of those affected by the disease. We are happy and proud to be listed as a leading example from Bulgaria and will continue to share our knowledge and expertise about dementia in future projects and initiatives!