Notes from Japan

For the last three years I have been involved in a consortium of people delivering dementia awareness in West Dunbartonshire. We have people from; HSCP, CVS, RNIB, Alzheimer Scotland and myself involved in this work with the aim of developing a dementia friendly West Dunbartonshire.  Initially this work was something that grew out of a network of like-minded individuals working together. We applied for and were given a grant by the Life Changes Trust to further develop this work and that is how I came to visit Japan in the spring to present this work. We were invited to submit an abstract of the work which we duly did with no real thought of this coming to anything. However in a surreal week we were told that our abstract had been accepted by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and the Life Changes Trust noted that they would fund a member of our group to attend the Conference.

I discussed this work with my colleagues who agreed that it should be myself who attended the conference. Life Changes Trust agreed to support me in attending the conference and Scottish Care likewise agreed to support my attendance.  I was overwhelmed and delighted at the thought of attending.

The conference lasted from 26th to 29th April and was held in the same conference centre where the Kyoto climate agreement was signed. The days were packed from 7.00-18.00 with speakers from across the world. When people found out you were from Scotland they wanted to know about the fantastic work happening there. They knew about Dementia Friendly Communities and were intrigued by Promoting Excellence, with many taking away copies of materials or links to it. Since returning, my postage bill has been massive with copies of materials being sent to Singapore and beyond.  The model of partnership working to deliver dementia awareness across a community was held up as a model of best practice, with many delegates looking to discuss how we got the buy-in from partners to work in this fashion.  This made me reflect on our approach that I took for granted. All of the partners I worked with had been willing to work in a coordinated fashion to support the development of a dementia friendly West Dunbartonshire. 

It was overwhelming to hear the high esteem with which the people from across world hold Scotland when it comes to dementia awareness. I am aware that Scotland has been on a journey in relation to dementia care and I am proud to part of the journey within West Dunbartonshire but I see the work to do rather than what has been achieved. I became a dementia ambassador over five years ago and subsequently a Dementia Champion and Friend to help with this work.

Whilst in Japan I also had the opportunity to meet up with people I have been corresponding with from other continents. One of them Rebekah Churchyard, from Canada, has an interest in Dementia and Criminal Justice and hearing her talk live and meeting up for the first time was an unexpected bonus.  This has sparked a new area of interest for me in relation to the nature of people living with dementia who are involved in criminal justice.

Since travelling to Japan I have completed two MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Course) Preventing Dementia and Understanding Dementia with the University of Tasmania, which I learned about from attendance at the conference.  

Going to Japan has helped me to put some of the achievements Scotland and West Dunbartonshire have made into context.  I have been more aware of work still to do and I have become more appreciative of the journey we have made in West Dunbartonshire.

Brian Polding-Clyde