News Release

State Of The Art In Alzheimer's Care, Support, And Research Featured At 25th Conference Of Alzheimer's Disease International

29 March 2010, London, UK

The world is experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. At the same time the world - in the form of scientists, health professionals, people with dementia, carers and family members, government officials, and many others - is coming together to fight stigma, advance research, and provide people with dementia and their families with the support and care that they desperately need.

Practical techniques and solutions for addressing the current problems of caring and living with dementia, advocacy and communications efforts to raise the profile of dementia as a global health problem, plus the latest in research results for treatment and prevention, were at the forefront at the 25th International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), 10-13 March 2010 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

"More than 35 million people worldwide are living with dementia, many of whom receive little or no medical or emotional support from healthcare services," said Dr Daisy Acosta, Chairman of ADI. "The aim of ADI and its member associations is to increase awareness and recognition of the disease in order for people to receive the care they need and deserve."

Delightful opening and closing ceremonies spotlighted Greek history and culture and promoted the 2011 ADI conference to be held in Toronto, Canada.

Involving People with Dementia in Advocacy, Activity and Care

An important conference session, reflective of a recent recognition of the power of people with dementia in their own care and advocacy, showcased a variety of efforts to engage people with dementia in the work of national Alzheimer associations. Presentations included a compelling and humorous talk from Martin Sewell and Edward McLaughlin from the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG), which is run by people with dementia. McLaughlin, Chairman of the SDWG, described a number of the group's activities, of which there are more than 100, over the last year, including meeting with Ministers and other politicians, producing two DVDs (a third is in process), speaking at conferences, and participating in the training of student doctors, nurses, and social workers.

Participants also heard from Yoko Mizutani of Alzheimer's Association Japan, host of the ADI Conference in 2004, who described efforts in Japan to integrate the voices of people with dementia into their governmental advocacy appeals and World Alzheimer's Day activities, plus the creation of social activities and regional exchange meetings specifically for people with dementia. Peter Ashley, who has Lewy Body dementia, presented the Life History Network's Portrait Of A Life toolkit, which enables people to gather written and printed materials, photos, video and other items into a Life Book, memory box, and accompanying DVD. Using the toolkit promotes meaningful engagement and well being as well as positive relationships between people with dementia and their friends, relatives and carers.

Arts and Dementia

An intriguing session on the arts and dementia included creative and thought-provoking work from people with dementia, carers, and professional artists. German photographer Michael Hagedorn described his innovative photographic awareness campaign, Konfetti im Kopf. Ninoslav Mimica from Croatia showcased a rewarding art therapy programme involving the drawings and paintings of a man with dementia. Dario Garau Setzu showed an excerpt from his touching film about his mother's 'second life' as she lives with dementia. Australian singer-songwriter Jay P talked about his dementia benefit concerts, known as Show Compassion, which were inspired by his experiences with his father who has dementia.

American Artist Judith Fox talked about her experience photographing and caring for her husband, Edmund Ackell, through his time with Alzheimer's disease and the creation of her outstanding book of writing and pictures, I Still Do. Berna Huebner, also from the U.S., presented a short piece from her film, I Remember Better When I Paint, a feature-length documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with dementia and how these approaches can change the way people perceive the disease. The inspiration for the film is the story of Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein (Hilgos), who had Alzheimer's disease. As she painted, Hilgos's mobility and speech improved as did her quality of life.

A Pfizer-sponsored symposium intermingled two presentations to powerful effect. Prof Roy Jones, of Royal United Hospital, Bath, UK, highlighted obstacles to diagnosis and treatment of dementia as revealed in the IMPACT survey, which was conducted in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Topics included reasons for delay in seeking medical intervention, choices to continue or discontinue drug treatment, and perceived caregiver burden. In the dual presentation, Jones' charts and graphs were broken up every so often with a humorous and heartbreaking video of 'Marinus', who had Alzheimer's disease, and his son/primary carer from a 6-year video case history conducted by Daniel Christensen, MD, of the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, Salt Lake City, USA.

Important Interventions - Without Drugs

Non-pharmacological methods for helping people with dementia and their carers, improving their quality of life, providing support and education, and training professional carers got the majority share of attention at the ADI conference.

Prof Robert Woods of Bangor University, Gwynedd, UK, said, 'Psychological therapies have been used with people with dementia for at least 50 years, aiming to improve or maintain cognition, functional abilities, and quality of life, and reduce distress, anxiety, depression and behavioural difficulties'. In his presentation, Psychological Interventions with People with Dementia, Woods shared positive findings from recent research, including cognitive stimulation therapy and behavioural approaches.

Prof Esme Moniz-Cook of the Institute of Rehabilitation, Hull York Medical School, UK, defined psychosocial intervention in dementia care and reviewed some of the interventions that are known to help. Mary Mittelman, of the New York University, Langone Medical Center, USA talked about Translating the NYU Caregiver Intervention from Research to Practice Settings.

Additional topics included support groups for people in the early stages of dementia, stress management programs for carers, implementation of "smart house" technologies to support families coping with dementia, walking programmes for cognitively impaired elders, computer-based cognitive training, nutritional interventions, and a variety of other methods for increasing physical activity, mental stimulation and social connectedness among people with dementia.

Latest information about dementia diagnosis and treatment

New findings in dementia medical treatments and diagnosis were the focus of several plenary sessions at the conference. Dr Sam Gandy of Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, New York, USA addressed new treatment developments in dementia, including therapies that have the greatest potential for entering clinical practice in the next few years. Neuroimaging Perspectives was the topic of Prof Frank Jessen of the University of Bonn, Germany. The presentation covered recent advances in both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) in dementia, and how the two technologies have contributed to both better and earlier diagnosis and increased understanding of the progression of the disease.

Pieter Jelle Visser, of Maastricht University Medical Centre and VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands covered MCI and the Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to cognitive impairment not severe enough to meet the criteria of dementia. Visser noted that by using biomarkers and cognitive testing, it might be possible to estimate the risk that a person with MCI will progress to dementia. Prof Bengt Winblad of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and Karolinska University, Huddinge, Sweden, optimistically spoke on ongoing clinical trials in Alzheimer's disease, which summarised the promising situation of many drugs being tested for their effectiveness in treating dementia.

Encouraging News about Prevention

Prof Barry Reisberg, of New York University School of Medicine, USA, updated conference attendees on the activities of the prevention working group of ADI. He noted the increasing evidence that dementia, though it is associated with older adults, may begin to change brain functioning and cognition in young adults and even in children. The ADI prevention working group seeks to guide the development of effective dementia prevention approaches.

Dr Michael Valenzuela of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia addressed whether physical and mental exercise could prevent cognitive decline. He described the growing body of research that suggests 'brain training' and physical exercise may be effective strategies for slowing the rate of cognitive decline in both healthy elders and those with MCI, especially when the two are used together. Prof Jannis Kountouras, of Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece, talked about a possible connection between helicobacter pylori, which is strongly linked to ulcers and stomach cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Prof Paul Francis, King's College London, UK described the function and growing importance of brain donation by people with dementia and their carers.

Improving care and treatment

Prof Rose-Marie Dröes of the VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands, presented some newer approaches to home care to help people with dementia, including attempts to increase the effectiveness of home care by changing from service-led approaches to demand-led care. Prof Magda Tsolaki of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, also President of the Greek Association which hosted the conference, reported on the longer term benefits of non pharmacological interventions. Prof Sadao Katayama closed the session with an interesting presentation about the treatment and care of people with dementia and their families in Japan, including the work of family associations.

A variety of speeches and presentations at the conference focused on creating a 'Global Alzheimer's Movement' and improving dementia care and treatment. Others touched on ethical issues in dementia and fundraising in the current difficult economic climate.

ADI worked closely with the Greek Association of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in the organisation of this conference. For more information on the 25th International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International, please visit www.alz.co.uk/conference

The 26th International Conference of ADI will be held 26-29 March 2011 in Toronto, Canada, with the theme, The Changing Face of Dementia. Registration opens 1 July 2010. The event is targeted to medical professionals, researchers, family and professional carers, and people with dementia. Anyone touched by Alzheimer's disease or other dementias will benefit from attending. More information is available at http://www.adi2011.org/