Frankie Greenwood’s reflections from the International Dementia Conference

‘Living with a dementia diagnosis’

On 8th and 9th September 2022 I was lucky enough to attend the International Dementia Conference 2002 (IDC 2022) in Sydney Australia, to speak about the bold project and the impact that the project has had across our communities in Scotland. 

The conference theme this year was “Brave New World” and it brought together experts in health and aged care, including those with lived experience, from across the world who all had the common goal of finding ways to “improve the quality of life for people living with dementia” (Dementia Conference, 2022).  

The two days were packed with a range of plenary and concurrent speakers addressing the experiences and needs of people living with dementia across cultures and countries, living in the home and in aged care facilities, and how we might begin to understand and mitigate the causes of dementia in the future, and make life better for those who live with dementia. 

We heard from a range of people living with a dementia diagnosis. Philp Bryson, who, in conversation with Professor Sussan Kurrie, shared some of his experiences about his diagnosis of dementia, the impact that that has had on his life. Philip reminded us that a dementia diagnosis is for life, unlike some other illnesses where there is a potential for cure.  

Bobby Redman, a retired psychologist was diagnosed with fronto-temporal dementia in 2015, spoke of how the use of technology has enabled her to remain independent in her own home. She shared how the technology she uses prompts her “what I need to do and helps keep me safe”. 

I attended one of the concurrent speaker sessions titled “Bravery to seek change through our voices: People with dementia and care partners”. William received a diagnosis of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019 at the age of 59, which had a devastating impact on him. William shared how he now manages his diagnosis of dementia through community involvement and his attempts to lead a better life. In September 2020 William decided to return as a volunteer surf lifesaver in September 2022. Working with exercise psychologists who designed a neuro-cognitive training programme to support William with balance, co-ordination and reflexes and William spent 18 months learning how to co-ordinate his body the way he needed to be a surf lifesaver. William is now competing in master’s Swimming and Surf Lifesaving at a national and international level and said that “it’s not about a podium finish, it’s simply about being included.” 

We also heard from Donna Lee who shared that her experience of being diagnosed with dementia felt like a death sentence. However, Donna is now finding ways to reengage with life, advocating for people living with dementia and is now determined to live a “passionate and positive life with dementia”.

In my next blog from the IDC I’ll talk about the stories from carers that were shared…