Walking the Talk for Dementia: A Global Event to Challenge Stigma and Inspire Change

‘Walking the Talk for Dementia’ – Fernando Peres, Gustavo San Martin, Bruna Rocha, and Clara Dominguez are on a mission to raise awareness about dementia and advocate for those affected by it.
By Tanya Lim

Fernando Peres, Gustavo San Martin, Bruna Rocha, and Clara Dominguez are on a mission to raise awareness about dementia and advocate for those affected by it. Their event, ‘Walking the Talk for Dementia’, will bring together people with dementia, healthcare professionals, advocates, and decision-makers from over 25 countries to walk together on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a 50km journey in Spain.

Together, they aim to create a bold and immersive experience that will challenge stigmas associated with dementia and show that people can still live with the condition.

Inspired to drive change

In an interview, Fernando Peres, one of the organizers from Brazil, shared how he was inspired to do his work in dementia advocacy. Fernando’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and as a teenager, he was tasked with caring for her and coping with the challenges that came with the diagnosis. Fernando dedicated himself full-time to her care as his grandmother’s condition progressed. He left work and his Philosophy course to spend more time with her.

“I suppose because of the damage caused by stigma in Brazil, I always connected dementia to the ageing process, which resulted in irreversible and common age-related deficits like memory, for instance. In my teens, the doctor diagnosed my grandmother, who was also my best friend throughout our lives together, with Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis didn’t come early at that point, and catching up with the changes was tough!” Fernando said in an interview.

This experience ignited his passion for bringing attention to the condition and inspiring change. Now, he is committed to raising awareness about dementia and advocating for those affected.

Living well despite a dementia diagnosis

The ‘Walking the Talk for Dementia’ event in Santiago de Compostela in May 2023 will allow participants from over 25 countries to engage in deep conversations about living, working, and researching dementia. Following the 50km Camino journey, a two-day symposium and a documentary will be produced, sharing the experiences of seven people living with dementia from six countries who participated in the event.

“We often get media that is stigmatized, and that leads us to imagine people with dementia in a wheelchair or living in a nursing home, and yes, many are, and that will continue to happen. But in parallel, we are getting a diagnosis at very early stages, and people are giving up living their lives because of a label put on them by society. The Walking the Talk for Dementia hopes to show that people can still live with dementia despite their diagnosis.,” Fernando said.

The event is organized by Fernando Peres, Gustavo San Martin, Bruna Rocha, and Clara Dominguez and is sponsored by the Brazil-based non-profit association, Crônicos do Dia a Dia (CDD).

How you can support the event

To make the event inclusive, the organizers seek funding to ensure equity in the diversity of participants and, therefore, in the different stories and perspectives to be told and considered. They are looking for companies and donors who are willing to sponsor the event, thus being responsible for engaging people from low and middle-income countries.

“We have now garnered institutional support from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), Atlantic Institute, World Young Leaders in Dementia, European Brain Council, Project We Forgot, Dementia Singapore, Alzheimer’s Association, University of Santiago de Compostela, BrainLat, and many others,” Fernando said.

If you are interested in being part of the event, either as a pilgrim to showcase your perspective on dementia and talk to other participants or an organization interested in funding the project, please get in touch with fernando.peres@gbhi.org.

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