Zornitsa Karagyozova writes about Alzheimer Bulgaria’s 20th anniversary celebratory conference

конференция „А сега накъде? Осигуряване на грижи за застаряващото население на България“

Hello, my name is Zornitsa Karagyozova. I am a member of the EDCWG and represent the Alzheimer Bulgaria Association (Алцхаймер – България). It is with great joy that I share that in 2023, the Alzheimer Bulgaria association celebrated its 20th anniversary. In honour of this unique anniversary, a national conference was organised, entitled “And now where? Providing care for Bulgaria’s aging population”. The event took place on 6 October 2023 in Sofia with approximately 80 people present. A live broadcast was provided for those who were not able to attend the conference, and the recording of the conference is available on the Alzheimer Bulgaria YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@alzheimerbulgaria7534), or click on these links to see part 1 and part 2.

The chairman of Alzheimer Bulgaria opened the conference, followed by a congratulatory speech from Ivan Karagyozov, a person with dementia and member of the association who spoke about his experience with the diagnosis and the support he received from Alzheimer Bulgaria. Congratulations on the occasion of the anniversary were also sent by representatives of various institutions in Bulgaria – the Deputy Minister of Health, the Chairman of the Economic and Social Council of the Republic of Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian member of the European Parliament.

The official opening was followed by four panels/sessions dedicated to different aspects of elderly care in Bulgaria. In the first part of the conference, the focus was on European policies and practices for the elderly in Bulgaria. Many experts participated and talked about their activities in this field.

Jean Georges, Executive Director of Alzheimer Europe, joined the conference online and gave a presentation on European policies for people with dementia. The theme of the second panel of the conference was caring for people with dementia and their relatives and carers. A representative of the Bulgarian Red Cross, representatives of one of the private homes for the elderly in Sofia, and also a psychologist who volunteers for the Alzheimer Bulgaria Association shared their experience in this area and spoke about the activities of the association such as the “Alzheimer’s Café”.

The third part of the conference was a panel discussion about the prevention, early diagnosis and follow-up of dementias. Practitioners from leading hospitals and scientific researchers shared their experience as well as the latest developments in the field. In the fourth and final panel of the conference, we looked towards the future, and the role of new technologies in the care of the elderly. Volunteers for the engineering-oriented association spoke about the latest participation of Alzheimer Bulgaria in – Social Store, an online platform designed to support the elderly in their quest for a dignified life.

The conference concluded with another important step in the association’s advocacy for the rights of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. An open letter was sent to the National Assembly and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, calling on the legislative and executive authorities to develop a comprehensive national strategy and plan for the early diagnosis, follow-up and care of people with dementia and support for their families. The very fact that we held this conference, as well as being able to celebrate 20 years of the Alzheimer Bulgaria association and its active work to help people with various types of dementia and their families in a country where there is still no active state policy in their support can in itself be considered an important achievement. I am proud and happy to be a volunteer and member of this association!