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Dementia: A call to action for each of us

Guest post by Sandra P. Hirst RN, Phd, GNC(C); IFA Regional Vice President (North America)

In May of this year (2017), delegates at the World Health Assembly endorsed a global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025. The objective of the global plan is to improve the lives of individuals with dementia, their families, and those who care for them, while at the same time reducing the impact of dementia on communities and countries. Delegates committed to developing national strategies and implementation plans. Yet, each of these delegates is also a citizen of the world – a global citizen and in this role, we might reflect upon the mandate of the IFA, which is promoting global connections.

The idea of global citizenship has existed for several thousand years. In ancient Greece, Diogenes declared himself a citizen of the world, Socrates is perhaps the most famous to do so. The ancient Greek philosophers asked “what makes a global citizen”. So what is a global citizen? Almost any definition you can locates shares, directly or indirectly, the principle of transcendence of borders, whether physical, political, cultural, or religious. The belief that a global citizen answers to a power that is both higher and humbler than that of an individual nation or a political jurisdiction: our shared experience as humans, on this earth of ours.

Yet, we often exclude older adults with dementia from global citizenship. An increasing body of research problematize citizenship and identifies social exclusion of older adults with dementia, perhaps caused by an existing belief that they are unable to participate in social interactions (Behuniak, 2011; Brannelly, 2011; Kelly & Innes, 2013). So how do we, promote the inclusion of older adults with dementia into the main stream of global society, how do we involve them in daily affairs, how do we help provide quality to their daily lives?

I am going to refer to several resources that I have found particular helpful as I reflect upon global challenge of promoting the health and well-being of older adults with dementia. The Global Dementia Observatory, is a web-based data and knowledge exchange platform of key dementia information that is currently being developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO iSupport: E-programme for Caregivers of People Living with Dementia and the WHO Global Action Plan on the public health response may also be of interest.

We can learn from these resources and share our ideas with colleagues, we can promote global connections that enhance the quality of life for older adults with dementia. We can contribute to our own roles as citizens of the world.

Behuniak, S.M. (2011). The living dead? The construction of people with Alzheimer’s disease as zombies. Ageing and Society, 31, 01, 70-92.
Brannelly, T. (2011). Sustaining citizenship: People with dementia and the phenomenon of social death. Nursing Ethics, 18(5), 662–71.
Kelly, F, & Innes, A. (2013). Human rights, citizenship and dementia care nursing. International Journal of Older People Nursing 8(1), 61–70.

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