U.S. Experts Keynote First Arab Conference on Alzheimer's
Letter From Beirut
David Troxel and Virginia Bell, coauthors of The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care (Baltimore: Health Professions Press, 1997) and subsequent books based on their best-friends approach, traveled last spring to Beirut, Lebanon, where they delivered the keynote address at the first Arab Conference on Alzheimer's disease. In the following letter, Troxel, a writer and long-term care consultant based in Sacramento, shares their experience with readers of Aging Today. The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care will soon be published in Arabic.
It was not your typical conference on aging. Imagine attending a professional meeting where the first day featured a general strike, where the second day coincided with the fall of the government, where large, peaceful but tense demonstrations took place on the street daily, and where uncertainty almost canceled the conference altogether.
This was the experience I had with my longtime colleague and coauthor Virginia Bell, program consultant for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Alzheimer's Association, during our week in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 2005. We were there to deliver the keynote address at a conference organized by the Alzheimer's Association Lebanon. The first-ever such meeting was an ambitious effort to raise awareness of dementia throughout the region. The audience included Arab physicians, nurses, social workers and other service professionals, as well as family members of those with dementia. Representatives from five Arab countries attended, including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and Tunisia. Other countries were expected to come but canceled due to political tensions in the region. Also present were representatives of the World Health Organization, Alzheimer's Disease International and the Lebanese government.
According to Diana Mansour, president of the Alzheimer's Association Lebanon, 1.5 million people are affected with dementia in Arab countries, about 30,000 of them in Lebanon. Mansour is beautiful and charismatic, a hard person to say no to, even in the face of national turmoil. Caring for her mother with Alzheimer's disease at home is a motivating force in her drive to raise awareness. To date, there have been few services and modest public awareness of dementia in this part of the world. Mansour is trying to change this situation in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world by promoting education and support groups. …