Sweden's queen has dementia care lessons for Korea
No one should have to deal with a loved one suffering from dementia on their own, said Queen Silvia of Sweden, who cared for her mother in her final years after she was diagnosed with the illness.
“One day my mother said to me, ‘I don’t remember anything of my life,’ so I decided to make a photo album of all the important events in my mother’s life, and I also wrote down the names of the persons and indicated how they were related to one another,” wrote Queen Silvia to the Korea JoongAng Daily on Wednesday in an email interview ahead of a forum on dementia organized in Seoul. “This helped my mother to remember, and the album was a great help to the nurses who treated her at this time.”
Queen Silvia’s mother, Alice Sommerlath, was diagnosed with dementia in the final years before her death in 1997 at the age of 90. As she cared for her mother, the queen saw the need for the country to have a special facility to focus on dementia care and treatment.
“I realized that many people, at that time, had very little knowledge about dementia,” she said. “My mother’s nurses had long experience of working with elderly people. But in general, nurses and doctors were inexperienced when it came to treating dementia. Dementia was more or less regarded as a normal part of older people’s lives. Once dementia was regarded as a disease, I founded Stiftelsen Silviahemmet and started the education for nurses.”
Founded in 1996, Stiftelsen Silviahemmet became a pioneering dementia care institution in Sweden. The institution offers training courses and education on caring for dementia patients for nurses and family members.
Sweden has experienced aging population earlier than most nations, with 20 percent of its population today aged over 65.
Korea, one of the fastest-aging societies, is set to become the world’s most aged society by 2067, with nearly half of its population being over 65, according to a study by Statistics Korea.
Dementia, found most commonly among people aged over 65, is an illness suffered by around 50 million people around the world. Both the Swedish government and Korean government have adopted a national strategy on dementia as of 2018.
After founding Stiftelsen Silviahemmet, the queen continued her work on raising awareness on the illness globally. One of the top international conferences on dementia, the Dementia Forum X, is supported by the Swedish royal family. The forum is being held partly virtually in Korea from Wednesday to Friday at Coex.
“This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone, everywhere,” Queen Silvia wrote in a congratulatory message to the forum. “For people living with dementia — and for their loved ones — these are difficult times. [But 2020] has also been a year of promising developments in the dementia field. I firmly believe that research, education and knowledge are powerful tools in combating stigma, raising awareness about dementia disease, and developing a better care.”
The following are edited excerpts of the interview with the queen in which she relayed her personal experiences in caring for her mother after she was diagnosed with dementia and some of her latest projects to transform dementia care in Sweden.
Twelve years ago, Silviahemmet was asked to start a national competence center for dementia together with a gerontological research center. The Swedish Dementia Centre is now spreading knowhow to care professionals, family members and society by free of charge web-based education programs with more than 500,000 users.
I told Mr. Kamprad about my idea and how I wanted to be able to help people living with dementia, to be able to keep living with their partner in a home that is adapted for the patient’s needs. The home must be adapted in order to diminish difficulties for the person with dementia. And it must look like a normal home. More than 100 adaptions were built into the houses, […] and also created a product line called Omtanksam, meeting the needs for elderly and people with dementia.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]
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