Saturday, 6 August 2011

Protectionism and dementia

You might think the collapse of the world's stock exchanges would mean very little for people with dementia.  How wrong.  The 1930s, the last time we saw the results of a crash on this scale, could be called 'the Dementia Dark Ages'.  Older people with dementia languished in back wards, undiagnosed, untreated and there was little or no research going on, with apparently nobody looking at what research had been done years before.  Part of the problem was each country being very protective of its own economic interests. Germany at this time had developed into the country most able and forward looking in terms of neuroscience, but still the hostilities continued, two World Wars of course sent us back to real dark ages.
Attending conferences, still new in the 1930s was not and is still not seen as a beneficial or innovative way of anyone spending their time.  Yes, how silly, that academics might share ideas and inspire each other at international conferences.  But that is precisely how the advances in dementia care and treatment happened in human history.  Sam Robinson, one of the first old age psychiatrists, attended the 'Third Congress of the International Association for Gerontology' in 1954.  There he met Raphael Ginzburg, a pioneering US gerontologist who Robinson said 'passed some sort of baton to me' (p9 Hilton Old Age Psychiatry 2008) and Robinson went on to set up one of the first old age psychiatric units.

So, please, policy makers: Encourage and pay for your medics, allied health professionals and academics to attend international conferences and share best practice. This is the best way that learning, innovation and research takes place.

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