Improving Dementia Awareness

Speech by State Secretary Lisbeth Normann at First WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementiaat

Thank you, Ms. Chairman, for the opportunity to speak on this important subject

Ministers, ladies and gentlemen

Dementia disorders involve the fates of individuals as well as the experiences and feelings of family members of those affected and the whole society.

Dementia disorders are still the subject of ignorance, guilt and taboos. There are a lack of awareness and knowledge about dementia among professionals and in society as a whole. That makes the burden of the disease difficult and actions challanging

In Norway, as in many other countries, we have developed a holistic plan for strengthening the care for people with dementia and their relatives.

One of the main principles of this plan is dignity and respect. People with dementia and their families must have the same rights as everybody else with a serious disease. How we meet the individuals with respect and dignity is a lacmus test on the quality of care and the quality of our society, and our society’s possibility to handle dementia

In order to strengthen the quality of the services to people with dementia, the Norwegian Dementia plan has focused on day-time activities, better adapted living arrangements and increasing knowledge and skills. Already we see a great change in the local communities.

Separate information and educational campaigns have been carried out, training courses for family caregivers as well as support groups have been established in almost all municipalities in Norway. A training package on dementia that gives a basic understanding of caring for dementia patients has been carried out in 90 % of the municipalities, and we have 428 of them.

But still we are facing crucial challenges:

We need to reduce the lack of knowledge and stigma associated with dementia.

We need more research to develop our understanding of dementia, increase the awareness of dementia, and develop new and better treatments and improve care.

And last, but nor least; We need to talk with people with dementia and their relatives, listen to their needs and involve them in planning and carrying out actions.

The Norwegian Ministry of health and care services has started the development of a new plan to reduce stigma and discrimination against persons with dementia and their families, and to strengthen the health and care services for people with the disease. The plan is based on involvement of patients and their relatives. The plan has the working title;  “A dementia friendly society”

We have been inspired by our colleges in the Netherlands, England and Scotland, and we have carried out a broad process including meetings and dialogs with people throughout the country. We have done this in cooparation with an NGO; the Norwegian Health Organization.

We will ensure higher knowledge and skills among family caregivers, employees and the general public. We will also invite our universities and university colleges to include dementia as a natural subject in the education of their health care professionals. 

To meet the future challenges we need to think in new and innovative ways on how to involve the resources of the whole society. We must develop care services characterised by collaboration between the public sector, people with dementia, family caregivers, volunteer organisations and local communities.

Over the years, we have experienced that it is less difficult to solve problems together than by standing alone. Cooperation is a source of developing new thoughts and ideas, and to give favourable conditions for growth of new wisdom and improved knowledge across sectors, continents and borders. In that perspective, this meeting represent a milestone!

I hope that together we can raise the visibility of what it means to have a dementia disorder and clarify how we can meet the challenges relating to a growing number of persons with the disease.

I also hope that we keep sight of the individual and the ethical challenges of meeting the individual with dignity and respect.  This is largely a matter of making possible a meaningful day-to-day existence characterised by good moments, despite illness and functional impairment.

Thank you for your attention!