Maruxa asked, “And that tree that you have planted there, what is it?” I answered, “Ginko Biloba, the tree of memory that your granddaughter planted for you.” Then Maruxa cracked up, and with tears of joy (I think) replied, “Well, it must not be a very good one since I am always asking you what it is.”
Today is World Alzheimer’s Day. Throughout the month of September, organizations connected to different types of dementia attempt to bring greater social understanding about the circumstances and problems associated with this illness. A year ago, the World Health Organization launched the Global action plan on the public health response to demential 2017-2025 with a very simple vision: “To achieve a world where (…) people with dementia and their caretakers live well and receive the attention and support they need.” The first of its seven guidelines is “dementia as a public health priority,” its second is “awareness and understanding of dementia.” Data—both on global and local levels—is overwhelming. In our aging Galicia, dementia is an illness with which we live daily. However, if the WHO put in place a plan of action to reduce the social impact of dementia, then I think that as a society we must continue to push for policies providing dignified assistance to both family members and patients.
I am the youngest of four sisters. If facing our mother’s dementia was difficult for us, I cannot imagine what this experience is like for those who don’t have eight helping hands at home. That is the obligation of our institutions—to support, finance, help and meet the WHO’s simple goal: for people with dementia and their caretakers “to live well and receive the attention and support they need.”