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GADS marks World Alzheimer’s Month

This September is World Alzheimer’s Month and annually the Gibraltar Alzheimer’s and Dementia Society raises awareness of the event. Every Wednesday of this month the Chronicle will publish articles by GADS, highlighting Alzheimer’s and dementia, its signs and symptoms, important facts and any ongoing events this month.

By Daphne Alcantara, GADS Chairman

It’s that time of the year again, the time when we get together and remind the world of the importance of acknowledging the existence of Alzheimer’s and dementia and, by doing so, decrease the stigma that goes with the disease.

September 2022 will mark the eleventh World Alzheimer’s Month campaign, an international campaign to raise dementia awareness and challenge stigma. The primary objective of World Alzheimer’s Month is to engage as many countries as possible, to adopt all seven action areas of awareness raising activities and achieve a primary commitment from all countries adopting the WHO Global action plan on dementia. These areas for action include: increasing prioritization and awareness of dementia, reducing the risk of dementia, diagnosis, treatment and care, support for dementia carers, strengthening information systems for dementia and research and innovation.

Each year, Alzheimer and dementia associations, alongside all those involved in the treatment, care and support of people living with dementia, from around the world unite to organise advocacy and information provision events, as well as Memory Walks and fundraising days.

The Gibraltar Alzheimer’s & Dementia Society (GADS) principal activity is raising awareness and better understanding of dementia and the main objective is the constant and vigorous campaigning with HM Government, the Gibraltar Health Authority, Elderly Residential Services, Care Agency and all other relevant authorities to provide meaningful and beneficial improvements in the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Dementia affects everyone differently and it is important that everyone is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, it is essential that the community is given the right information to be able to recognise the symptoms associated with the disease and that everyone receives the best care and support whether they are in hospital, living at home or in residential care.

GADS offers support meetings to families and caregivers; we exchange practical information on care giving, ways of coping, talk through challenges, share experiences and offer advice on care and support available in Gibraltar.

GADS works and campaigns all year round, but when we come together in September the overall impact is much stronger – we hold Awareness Events and Memory Walk and remind the policy makers and the community of the importance of acknowledging the existence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias and by doing so we aim to decrease the stigma that goes with the disease.

This is why World Alzheimer’s Month and World Alzheimer’s Day (21st Sept) are so important.

Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s

The World Alzheimer’s Month campaign #KnowDementia #KnowAlzheimers’ will have a special focus around post-diagnosis including the importance of support for people living with dementia and their families following diagnosis.

The World Alzheimer Report 2022 is also focused on post-diagnostic support and will launch on World Alzheimer’s Day (21st September 2022). Through its rigorous approach it will be looking at the role of government, healthcare professionals and civil society in post-diagnostic support. It will also be highlighting gaps and shining light on the experiences of people who are living with dementia and their families.

This years’ campaign theme is Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s is all about the power of knowledge. Once you know more about dementia, you are armed with information, advice and support and are better to prepare and to adapt. Knowledge is Power!

Throughout World Alzheimer’s Month GADS will continue to empower more people to join our movement as “Together, we can do so much”. The hashtag for World Alzheimer’s Month 2022 is #KnowDementia #Know Alzheimer’s and the tagline “Together we can do so much” really encapsulates the essence of year’s World Alzheimer’s Month.

Daphne Alcantara, (GADS) Chairperson, said:

How would you respond if you have been told that you had dementia?

Having just received a diagnosis of dementia, you, like many people, may find it takes a while to get your thoughts together, to work out how you feel about this news and what you might want to do now.

Perhaps, it has taken you a long time to get to this stage, you may have attended many appointments prior to being diagnosed and now know the answer to your questions, or you might not have considered a diagnosis of dementia and may now be feeling quite shocked. Reactions to a diagnosis of dementia can vary from relief to mixed emotions; shock, sadness, despair, fear, anger or denial. Helping people come to terms with their diagnosis, to make decisions and plan ahead is critical in supporting them to live well with dementia.

Some people become withdrawn, stop going out and become reluctant to see family and friends, this can deeply upset those close to them who don’t know how to help, but coming to terms with it, making decisions and planning ahead are all part of living well with dementia. Getting information and support when you need it from professionals working in health and social care can make a real difference. It is imperative that healthcare professional properly equip individuals and their families and carers with the necessary knowledge and skills they require, as well as engage them in their own healthcare needs.

Thinking ahead may feel difficult, but advance care planning can be helpful in making sure people are aware of your wishes for the future. When you feel ready for this discussion, you should be offered support and information.

Planning for the future after a diagnosis of dementia

All of us want to be in control of our lives – to have the ability to make decisions about our future. Planning for the future after a diagnosis of dementia enables people to play a key role in making important decisions on their care needs and financial and legal affairs.

A diagnosis can raise many challenges (from working and driving, to medical and care support and living arrangements). There are no easy answers, but discussing and planning for the future will help prevent difficult and often stressful situations arising later.

Helping people to come to terms with a diagnosis to make decisions and plan ahead is critical in supporting them to live well with dementia. As more people receive an early diagnosis, new challenges for the type of help required emerge for everyone involved – from the person with dementia to their family and all involved in providing care. Although there is no single model of support, it begins with helping people to accept a diagnosis and understand their circumstances, fears, beliefs and hopes.

Dementia touches so many families locally, but the quality of care people receive after a diagnosis can vary and this has to change, everyone living with dementia is entitled to the right care, at the right place and at the right time. Better understanding and simple changes will ensure dignified care and the best quality of life possible.

Many people diagnosed with dementia believe that very little can or will be done for them, particularly in the early stages. Identifying symptoms of dementia and receiving a diagnosis as early as possible can provide those diagnosed and their families with more opportunities to learn about the condition and organise appropriate support. The potential for support will enable people with dementia and their families and carers to face the challenge of a diagnosis and lead a meaningful and positive life is high and can do a great deal to challenge the stigma that is sometimes attached to dementia.

People with dementia and their families and carers need comprehensive support that encompasses medical, as well as emotional and social well-being – yet these needs are not being met in a consistent and timely way. When support needs go unmet, crisis -such as hospitalisation, carer- breakdown and health deterioration become more common. These crises not only have a detrimental impact on people living with dementia and their families, but are costly for the health and care system, both in terms of capacity and finance. This will have a direct and negative impact on the health and quality of life of people affected by dementia, it also has a direct impact on the wider health and care system, the lack of consistent support means people are at a greater risk of crisis which has a damaging impact on those living with dementia and the health service.

Providing post-diagnostic support and care is fundamental for the well-being of people living with dementia and their families and carers. We need to build relationship with those that support us and, in doing so, build trust. With trust comes openness and honesty when things are not so good. Commitment from HM Government to the development and implementation of the Gibraltar National Dementia Strategy, supported by robust health and care systems policies is needed to improve the diagnostic pathway leading to a more comprehensive post diagnosis support.

For advice and support, contact:

The Gibraltar Alzheimer’s and Dementia Society
Tel: (00350) 56001422

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