A couple of weeks ago, I spent two days supporting the Canadian government by attending and speaking at their first National Dementia Conference, to help inform the development of their National Dementia Strategy. It was a personally very expensive exercise as reimbursement for costs to attend still pending, but in so many other ways, it was really wonderful to catch up with old friends, and meet for the first time, many old and new ‘online’ friends.
There was a lot of laughter, and also some tears.
The tears were a combination of sharing the reality of our ups and downs on the ‘roller coaster of dementia’, but also of joy in finally meeting people who have known each other online, some for many years, and never met in person. Lots of long hugs and tears at final goodbyes.
There are a great number of very passionate and active dementia advocates (people with, and without dementia) in Canada, and I applaud and salute them all. There was excitement, determination, passion and a lot of honest, open and frank discussions, and it felt like and sounded like all stakeholders are committed to ensuring human rights are appropriately embedded into their national plan and policies. I have no doubt people like Mary Beth Wighton and Phyllis Fehr and others will keep them honest!
One dear friend Ron, who I have met in person before this event, and also had the pleasure of also enjoying a guided walk with to visit the tulips (they really are very spectacular and worth a visit), as well as a history lesson about why they are there, asked a young and very fit looking chap to take a photo of us with the tulips as a backdrop.
It turned out this guy was an Olympian for Canada, and we chatted for a while about his athletic career and the motivational speaking he now does (the three of us are featured in this photo, provided to me by Ron).
He then asked what did we did, and Ron quickly introduced me as ‘The Michael Jordan of Dementia.’ It was a lovely compliment, although a tad embarrassing, and on top of that I’m rather short in height, and white!
Ron himself is quite the guru of IT in dementia, which is how I introduced him. The olympian whose name I’ve forgotten asked for my card, and said we’d keep in touch. Only time will tell on that one!
But back to the conference, which has been a little like the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week. There was a lot of very positive rhetoric, and the overwhelming theme or mantra to come out of it was #HumanRight4All. One of the things that worried me at the conference though, was a Workshop session I attended on creating Dementia Friendly Communities.
This is because none of the feedback from the table I sat at was included in the feedback to the whole group of delegates. To me, this implies they, like many other countries, they have already decided that DFC’s are the way forward, and will solve all of our problems. This is money being spent on projects that have made little difference to the lives of most people facing dementia (diagnosed or caring for), instead of investments in health care and education of those who provide it.
If we don’t have accessible and affordable health care and services and support to live positively with dementia, no amount of Dementia Friends or Dementia Friendly Communities are going to make much of a difference, or at least that’s my fairly basic logic on this articular topic.