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Executive Director Eila Okkonen's speech in Alzheimer Europe's meeting

In Finland we only use the word dementia when we talk about the last phase of the disease. However, as a general term, we use 'memory-related disease' (MRD) or 'memory disease'. Dementia is a syndrome caused by multiple diseases, not a disease itself.

In Finland the term 'memory-related disease(s)', not dementia, has been the main term used by medical doctors and other health professionals, public affairs officers and ordinary people since 2008.

I can see how this can be difficult to understand here in AE. However, we have had good feedback on this terminology from people with the disease and their next of kin, and for this reason we will not be going back to the term 'dementia'.

1. New Strategy for 2017-2020

Our work will be guided by a new strategy until 2020. The vision is 'Memory-Friendly Finland'.

We have three main points:

1. People with memory-related diseases (MRD) can live their lives as active members in-cluded in society according to their own capacity, abilities and resources. Few people with MRD wish to live in isolated villages.

Our goal, as an NGO, is to improve public awareness and also promote and support people with MRD to become an accepted, visible part of society.

2. Promotion of brain health, prevention of MRD and changes in everyday life: 'Healthy Hab-its — Healthy Brain'.

We underline the message of Professors Miia Kivipelto (MD) and Timo Strandberg (MD) "As the options of prevention of arterial diseases will also provide possibilities for exten-sive prevention of memory diseases. Central measures include physical activity, a healthy diet and intervention in risk factors - early enough, of course. What is good for the heart is generally good for the brain as well."

The strategy underlines the need for health and social services that genuinely meet the needs of people with these diseases and their caregivers and also involve society as a close-knit part of the service system.

3. Influencing together effectively
We work together with our 44 member associations and their 14 000 members, 1000 volunteers and 260 employees. Together with our partners, we consider ourselves strong agents in the field.

2. The Criteria for Good Care and Life Workbook

The Alzheimer Society of Finland has been coordinating and implementing the National Memory Programme (2012-2020) in the NGO sector since 2013. As a part of this work, we have published a workbook for professionals, The Criteria for Good Care and Life, for the homecare services and nursing homes to help develop and evaluate their work with people diagnosed with MRD and their care partners.

The workbook will be presented in the ADI conference in Kyoto in the spring of 2017.

3. Current Care Guidelines for Memory-Related Diseases

A working group appointed by the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim, Societas Gerontologica Fennica, the Finnish Neurological Society, Finnish Psychogeriatric Association and the Finnish Association for General Practice updated the Care Guidelines for Memory-Related Diseases in Finland on 27 January 2017.

Examples of key messages:

These guidelines aim at

4. Municipal Elections in Finland

Municipal Elections will take place in April this year. We have organised a pledge campaign similar to that of AE during the European Elections and ours during the Finnish Parliamentary Elections.

Our main message is 'A Memory-Friendly Community is Great for Everyone'. We have increased the awareness of candidates, and in three weeks we have received nearly 300 signatures on our website. We cooperate actively with our local associations, and they are active with local candidates.

The pledge and number of Finnish signatories have been mentioned several times on our Facebook page (over 7,000 followers) and Twitter account.


Two big issues will be discussed in Parliament:

5. Citizens' Initiative on Euthanasia Proceeds to Parliament

A recently-launched citizens' initiative to legalize euthanasia has already gathered the 50,000 signatures required for lawmakers to consider the proposal.

Personally, I think this citizens' initiative will raise lively discussion, debate and dialog in Finland.

Finland passed legislation in 2012 to guarantee citizens' constitutional right to influence democracy by way of the citizens' initiative. It means that initiatives that gather the required 50,000 signatures automatically qualify to go before Parliament for consideration.

6. Self-Determination, Restrictions and Deprivation of Freedom

Once again we are trying to draw up a law on self-determination for people with MRD in Finland. We began our first attempt in 2010, and it did not come to a successful conclusion. Social Affairs and Health Ministry officials have been preparing this issue over the spring 2017.

Eila Okkonen
puh. 09 6226 2010, 040 455 1329
eila.okkonen(at)muistiliitto.fi Muistiliiton kehittäminen, toiminta ja hallinto sekä yhteiskuntasuhteet. Muisti-lehden päätoimittaja.

Page updated 9.5.2017

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Pasilanraitio 9 B
00240 Helsinki, Finland

Telephone +358 9 6226 200 
Email   toimisto(at)muistiliitto.fi

The Alzheimer Society of Finland was established in 1988 to provide help and assistance for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. The society is a non-profit organisation and it is mainly funded by the Finnish Slot Machine Association.