Counseling Services Network for Dementia

There are currently 200,000 people living with dementia in Greece and 400,000 family carers looking after them. Although there is a National Action Plan for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in place and there are Memory Clinics and Day Care Centers for people with dementia in the large cities of Greece, compared to existing needs, services are woefully inadequate. Large areas of the country are not covered by any specialized facilities. Athens Alzheimer Association, which is a member of Panhellenic Federation of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in collaboration with the Greek National Network of Healthy Municipalities has developed a project called “Building Counseling Services network for Dementia within municipalities all over Greece” which aims to provide care to people with dementia and education and support to their carers in the local communities.

The project is implemented in two phases:

PHASE A: April-November 2018: 133 health and social care professionals from the 55 municipalities from all over Greece participated in online synchronous and asynchronous training via virtual specially developed training platform. Training consisted of eight 2-hour classes, followed by practical on the job training at the Day Care Centers of Alzheimer Associations in Athens and Thessaloniki.

PHASE B: January 2019: 55 Dementia Counseling Centers are fully operating in participating municipalities staffed by their already trained personnel, offering:

  • Programs for people with dementia: Memory Clinic (early diagnosis and effective follow-up), integrated non-pharmacological interventions
  • Support groups, psychoeducational interventions and counseling services for carers

The objectives of the project are:

  • To raise awareness and promote prevention of dementia in the public
  • To decrease the stigma of the disease and organize dementia action groups in local communities
  • To foster independence and autonomy of people with dementia with the use of new technologies

Greek Alzheimer Associations have committed to support the municipal Dementia Counseling Centers with regular visits of experienced health professionals, printed material, seminars and events for the first 2 years of operation.

Overall, the core aim of the project is to lay the foundations for the creation of dementia-friendly communities in Greece. The inspiration of a dementia friendly community is a space including friends, neighbors, lay people, shops and businesses, children and young adults and all involved stakeholders that understand and appreciate the condition. It is a place where people with dementia will live as independently as possible and they will be valued, understood and respected.

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A key factor in developing dementia friendly communities is raising awareness and offering training regarding dementia related issues within organisations. For this purpose, Athens Alzheimer Association is running an educational program specially designed for employees in Public Services, transportation means, banks, supermarkets etc. in order to make these places dementia friendly.

The main pillars of the program are:

  • Encouraging organisations to establish dementia friendly approaches and implement strategies that help people with dementia.
  • Training employees to recognize the person with dementia and behave accordingly.
  • Building physical environments, accessible and easy to navigate for people with dementia.
  • Raising awareness amongst employees to prevent dementia and eliminate stigma.
  • Supporting employees/colleagues who care for a person with dementia.

So far police officers from police departments in Attica have been trained as well as employees of 6 Citizens Service Centers in Athens. Until the end of 2019 we have scheduled training for taxi drivers, bank tellers and super market staff.