THE FIRST ALZHEIMER’S, PARKINSON’S AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS CONFERENCE HAS BEEN HELD IN PORTUGAL
A unique conference was held on 21st October in Torres Novas, a beautiful city in Ribatejo, central Portugal.
An initiative of Alzheimer Portugal, Associação Portuguesa de Doentes Parkinson (Parkinson Association) and Associação Movimento Esclerose Múltipla do Médio Tejo (Multiple Sclerosis Association), the meeting was attended by almost 500 people.
The Together under the Umbrella campaign (an initiative of EFNA) was celebrated on the day. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the impact and prevalence of brain disorders, with 1 in 3 Europeans affected by a brain disorder in their lifetime. Campaign materials were translated into Portuguese and shared at the conference. People were invited to: grab an umbrella, take a photo and share their story and image with the hashtag #UnderTheUmbrella.
For the first time in Portugal, people with Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson, carers, volunteers, association representatives, researchers, medical doctors and other health care professionals, joined together to discuss the common issues of neurodegenerative diseases and the biggest challenges facing people living with such diseases.
Especially impressive was the presence throughout the day, of Marisa Matias MEP. Local authorities and of the National Coordinator for the Reform of the Continuous Care Network, Professor Manuel Lopes also participated and announced that the National Dementia Plan is being prepared as well as an Active Aging program.
Difficulties in obtaining early and correct diagnosis, access to treatment and stigma were some of the main barriers people need to overcome in order to maintain quality of like for as longer as possible.
Increased awareness of the first signs of neurodegenerative diseases is needed in order to see early intervention, not only with drugs but with non-pharmacological interventions. This was very well stressed by people living with the disease and their carers.
Family doctors have an important role to play in identifying early signs of the disease and in sending the patients to the neurologist in order to obtain a correct diagnosis.
Idalina Aguiar, a member of the European Working Group of People with Dementia (Alzheimer Europe) together with João Pedro Belo (Parkinson) and Manuel Subtil (Multiple Sclerosis) were some of the speakers.
All of them highlighted the need of having positive attitudes and to struggle against stigma and misperceptions of the diseases. Their voices really touched the participants and strengthened their willingness to improve the quality of life of people living with neurodegenerative diseases.
In Portugal there are about 182,000 people with Dementia, 20,000 people with Parkinsons Disease and 8,000 with Multiple Sclerosis. These people are living with very challenging disorders and deserve better recognition and support from the government.
The three associations are strongly committed to demanding better care and effective respect for their rights. They plan to continue working together.