Learning from the experts at the Dementia Congress

As I do every year, I attended the Dementia Congress this year. The show is a great opportunity for people in the industry to showcase the work they’ve been doing, learn from each other, discuss new research and hear about developments happening at home and abroad.

As always though, the highlight for me is meeting the people who actually have dementia. All too often we get bogged down with the professional and academic side of the condition, and we forget the people who really know the most about it. Those people living with it. In the last couple of years people with dementia are being recognised and welcomed to the Congress much more, and they make a lovely contribution. Often they’re part of a session and have their say about what academics or experts think, and usually they bring a good dose of reality to it all. In essence, they bring us all back down to earth again…

In the last couple of years people with dementia are being recognised and welcomed to the Congress much more, and they make a lovely contribution.

I particularly enjoy the one or two sessions which are only for those with dementia – in fact they’re usually the best sessions of the whole congress. The Dementia Engagement & Empowerment Project (DEEP) always runs a great group session, raising awareness and asking how they can help people better. This year they were looking at the really complex issue of: “How can we make sure the power rests with us” – and the discussions were incredibly thought-provoking. They are very good at always bringing up really interesting ethical or value-based questions. DEEP do an awful lot for people with dementia, you can find out more about them, here.

Another debate that I found really interesting this year, was ‘Has dementia care made progress in the last five years?’. It seemed to many panel members that the overall answer was ‘no’, but, personally, that’s balderdash… Because of course we’ve made progress. Medical research has definitely moved things forward, and even if we don’t have the answers yet, we’ve learned what doesn’t work, what works to some degree and other things along the way. New medications that have recently been released are equally making a difference, and of course, in the world of activities, there’s been huge progress. Finally, people are really looking at what is adequate and what is truly beneficial in the world of activities. I feel that now every area you can think of has been looked at and then considered with dementia people in mind

What I took away from the Congress this year, was the real focus on people trying to find both an effective, but also an elegant way of working with people with dementia. This is so important to see – aside from the medical research and academic study, which is very important, more and more work and time is being poured into how we work with and enrich the lives of those with dementia. This makes me very happy and I feel quite positive about what the coming years will bring.