Immigrants with dementia in Denmark

The number of elderly immigrants with dementia is increasing

Written by Anders Reinholdt September 24, 2014

In the future, there will be significantly more elderly immigrants with dementia, and by 2040 as much as 67 per cent of the older immigrants will be from non-Western countries. This provides a number of challenges in the health services and care sector.

The Migration School is the largest training in the care of minority groups in Scandinavia and the first research projet in Europe which has focused on diagnostic methods associated with dementia. It writes the Capital Region in a press release.

Doctors and caregivers in dementia often face a number of challenges in working with people with a cultural and linguistic background far from the Danish.

Neuropsychologist Rune Nielsen PhD, of the National Dementia Research Center and head of the Danish part of the project, explains:

First, older immigrants are generally less likely to seek medical advice in connection with memory problems. Second, the health care sector often has difficulty diagnosing those who do seek help because of language and cultural barriers. And thirdly, Denmark has no special care services that meet the often different needs of elderly immigrants who actually are given a dementia diagnosis.

Memory Failure is a natural part of aging

The reason why immigrants are less likely than other citizens to seek help if memory fails is partly due to the lack of general knowledge about dementia, and partly due to many viewing dementia as a shameful disease that you do not talk about.

There is a lot of work in raising awareness about what dementia is and that there is help at hand. We assume that only about 10 per cent of the expected number of immigrants with dementia are actually being diagnosed by a doctor. In other words, there are many who go around without getting the help they need, says Rune Nielsen.

Diagnostic tools are suitable only for Danish language and culture

The few immigrants who seek medical assistance risk a worse clinical investigation than patients with the Danish language and cultural background. The result is often less accurate diagnosis.

The diagnostic tools that doctors and neuropsychologists use are based on the patient attending a Danish school and being familiar with Danish culture. (For example, the cognitive tests used in Denmark would include questions about Danish current events, such as the current Prime Minister, and common phrases in Danish – all of which are relevant to the culture and language). But many older immigrants have low education and in many cases are also lacking a general understanding that it requires many studies and many visits to the clinic before the doctor can reach a potential diagnosis.

Just the fact that the diagnostic tools require knowledge of the Danish language and culture is a significant problem. By comparison, an older person who was born and raised in Denmark would face the same challenges to be thoroughly examined for cognitive problems in England, for example, although they may speak the English language, says Rune Nielsen.

New cross-cultural test methods

There is therefore a need for new cross-cultural diagnostic tools when a suspected dementia diagnosis should be confirmed or denied. But dementia often results in changes in personality and behavior, which can make it very difficult for the relatives to provide the care.

Today, it is about 7% of all Danes older than 65 years who live in nursing homes, while only 1% of the older non-Western immigrants in Denmark living in a nursing home.

There can be many reasons that immigrant families do not send their elders to a Danish care center. Firstly, care centers are either linguistically or culturally attuned to their health and care responsibilities. Secondly, there is an economic aspect, where some immigrant families simply cannot afford nursing home care. And third, there is a tradition for – and expectation – that the children take care of the older generation. But this not always in harmony with the Danish housing and culture, where it is the norm that all adults in the household work outside the home.

Diversity Nursing Homes

Denmark has two diversity nursing homes, in Aarhus and Copenhagen. They can be seen as the first step in relation to equip the Danish care sector for the growing group of senior citizens with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Whether this is sufficient to address the growing needs and the many, often complex, issues related to cross-cultural care, only the future will tell.


Dementia and wheelchair bound, but not sick enough for early retirement….

Dorte has dementia and is in a wheelchair:  but she’s not sick enough for early retirement 

Written by Ane Sørensen April 16, 2015

Picture: Mathias Svane Kraft/3F

Svendborg Municipality believes that Dorte Pedersen’s ability to work has not decreased enough.

59-year-old Dorte Pedersen has dementia, needs a wheelchair, and receives home-help several times a day.

Still, Svendborg Municipality thinks that Dorte is not sick enough to get disability benefits.

Dorte Pedersen has been in the workforce for more than 40 years. She has, among other jobs, worked in a bakery, at a large factory, and worked in a school. But it all came to an abrupt end in 2010, when Dorte had a stroke and was dismissed after a year’s absence. Dorte wanted to come back to work, but in 2014 she had to be on sick leave, and chronic neuritis (a chronic nerve infection) forced her to be in a wheelchair. Shortly after, Dorte received a dementia diagnosis.

But even though Dorte is sick, Svendborg Municipality doesn’t think she has the right to claim disability benefits and go on early retirement. The municipality estimates that Dorte’s ability to work has not decreased enough that she qualifies for early retirement.

Svendborg Municipality has not returned to 3F’s inquiries regarding Dortes case.

Training for better memory

People with dementia train for better memory

Written by Ritzau May 12, 2015

Training helps Alzheimer’s patients to remember and concentrate. Alzheimer’s Association: Give all the offer.
As the first in the world, a group of Danes with Alzheimer proven that physical exercise strengthens the intellectual ability and increase the quality of life.

When the body starts to move, support memory and concentration ability, like exercise has a beneficial effect on the unrest that many patients with Alzheimer suffer.

“We can see that patients who exercise physically achieve an effect in several areas. They function better in their daily lives, and, at best, exercise can have a delaying effect on the disease,” says research leader Professor Steen Hasselbalch of the National Dementia Research Center.

A total of 200 patients affected by dementia since 2012 participated in the project. Half trained through 16 weeks in a community with others and in the presence of physiotherapists. The other group received no training.

The primary goal was to strengthen the ability to remember and concentrate, which was achieved in two out of three patients. It was achieved in the group who showed up to 80 percent of the three weekly training sessions and trained with such a high intensity that they were out of breath.

“They saw an effect on their mental speed, attention, and concentration,” says Steen Hasselbach.

It is still too early to determine why exercise has a positive effect on the brain. But it may be due to the fact that muscles secrete substances that are believed to have a protective and stimulating effect on the neurons during exercise.

But the explanation can also be simple so that patients sleep better and in general feel a greater comfort when they train, and thus find it easier to cope with everyday life.

In the Danish Alzheimer’s Association, President Nis Peter Nissen urges parliament to require municipalities to offer physical exercise to everyone with Alzheimer’s disease.

This will not only benefit patients and relatives, but also save admissions and nursing home places.

1950’s apartment – A museum especially for those with dementia

Museum Helps the Elderly (and those with dementia)

This article is from the Danish news source TV2.

The Old Town (an open-air museum in Aarhus, Denmark) has a reminiscence apartment that is fully booked on weekdays, but now those who are interested have the opportunity to see the apartment and get an insight into the work of remembrance communication (reminiscence).

22. apr 2015, kl. 12:32 | By: Katrine Rubeck – updated 25. april 12.20

AARHUS:  This weekend, The Old Town in Aarhus opens up the city’s rememberence apartment.

Photooto: Thorsten Overgaard, Den Gamle By

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Ældre Sagen: Brugervenlighed frem for besparelser

Ældre Sagen: Brugervenlighed frem for besparelser

Altinget: velfærdsteknologi

DEBAT: Digitaliseringen af det offentlige skal ikke kun handle om besparelser. Det er derfor glædeligt, at der med den nye digitaliseringsstrategi er kommet mere fokus på, hvordan digitaliseringen kan skabe værdi for borgerne, skriver Bjarne Hastrup, direktør i Ældre Sagen.

Af Bjarne Hastrup
Direktør i Ældre Sagen

Nu er vi inden længe ved vejs ende af den nuværende fællesoffentlige digitaliseringsstrategi, og en ny strategi skal se dagens lys.

Jeg har bemærket, at der er sket et skifte i, hvordan formålet med at digitalisere det offentlige bliver omtalt.

Tidligere var der et stort fokus på de millioner, det offentlige hvert år kunne spare, hvis blot borgerne begyndte at kommunikere digitalt med de offentlige myndigheder. Til min glæde hører jeg, at der i forbindelse med arbejdet med den nye strategi i højere grad bliver talt om, hvordan digitaliseringen kan skabe værdi for borgerne og virksomhederne i Danmark.

Se, det er det helt rigtige fokus at have i forbindelse med udarbejdelse af den nye strategi. Selv finansministeren har udtalt, at det ikke altid kun handler om penge, hvilket jeg er meget enig med ham i. Så må vi håbe, at det ikke bare bliver ved snakken, men faktisk også viser sig ved opfyldelse af nye strategiske mål.

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Happy 75th Birthday, Queen Margrethe!

Today, the Queen of Denmark, Queen Margrethe II, had her 75th birthday. As with any royal birthday or public holiday, the buses all had their Danish flags out all over the country  The Queen had a birthday gala in Copenhagen last night, and the celebrations continued today with wake-up calls, carriage rides, a lot of waving, and more fancy meals. Royalty from around Europe attended.

Thousands were waiting at Amalienborg palace to see the Queen on her birthday today.

Flags on the buses

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Tour Review! Nursing Home of the Future (Fremtidensplejehjem)

January, 2014, a new residence and care home for aging adults opened in Nørresundby, Denmark (just across the fjord from Aalborg). It’s called Fremtidensplejehjem, which means Nursing Home of the Future, and it’s a new facility that is based on sensory stimulation, keeping active/exercise, and socialization. It incorporates new design, and open and social use of space, and high technologies.

I have been attending public and academic meetings in the community about the Fremtidensplejehjem for about the past 2 or 3 years, so have had a good idea of what they envisioned. I was studying welfare technologies specific to dementia care at Aalborg University, so this new building was particularly interesting for me. Yes, I applied for a job there when they were opening, but, unfortunately was not one of the lucky chosen. Part of the reason could be that they are not focusing on dementia care in Fremtidens – of course they know that they will have residents with dementia (in Denmark, around 85% of those in institutional care have some form of dementia), but they did not adjust the facility to specifically accommodate them. I think this might be motivated by their plan to later build a Dementia Nursing Home of the Future (plans are for this building to open in 2017).

Even though I don’t have paid work there, I live quite close and have grown fond of using their entrance area (with plenty of tables, free wifi, sunlight, and free coffee as my “free range” office. I take my lap top and books, set up at one of the tables, and draw inspiration from the surroundings. I must say, so far, all the staff and residents I have encountered in my “free range” office have been absolutely accommodating and helpful, and it seems as if they also enjoy that people from the community use the public space – it brings a different kind of life to a “nursing home” when it is also a space that people meet up for coffee, for visiting with friends (who may or may not live in the institution), for “free range” working, and for bringing a bit more of the community into the community space. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I imagine when I get into some writers block or stuck on a problem, a leisurely walk along the fjord will get the creative juices flowing again.

Thursday, March 20, 2014, I attended a guided tour of Fremtidens, hosted by Alzheimer Foreningen, the Danish Alzheimer’s Association. The tour was led by a PhD student who has been involved with the project for the past 3 years (I didn’t know they had PhDs or students working on the project – which is a little weird since I was one of maybe 5 people that I knew of at the University studying dementia care and the only one at the University studying technologies for dementia care), and we got to see the IT helpdesk (offered free to the public to help older adults figure out their online services used for banking, healthcare, and other governmental services), the wide hallways, the gym and rehabilitation rooms (also offered free to the public over age 65), common areas such as the Orangium (a space where the residents can hang out with an excellent view of the harbor), kitchens where families can come to cook meals together and the residents make bread on the weekends, the media room (for watching movies, listening to music, or reading – also with a fantastic patio overlooking the harbor), and a few other things.
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7 gode råd

Kender du nogen med demens ? Har du svært ved at regne ud, hvordan til at tale med dem, eller hvad du kan gøre for at hjælpe? Denne artikel er fra Alzheimersforeningen Danmark og giver 7 gode råd om, hvordan du kan hjælpe en person med demens (og hjælpe dig selv til lære mere om det undervejs).

God læsning og god oplevelse!

I have also translated this post into English, you can read it here.

7 gode råd til, hvordan du hjælper et menneske med demens

Få 7 gode råd gratis

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Alzheimer’s Association Denmark: 7 tips for how to help a person with dementia

Do you know someone with dementia? Do you have a hard time figuring out how to talk to them or what you can do to help? Are you not sure how to talk to friends about a recent diagnosis of dementia in your family? This article is from the Alzheimer’s Association in Denmark and gives 7 tips on how you can help a person with dementia (and help yourself to learn more about it on the way).

Happy reading and I hope it brings good experiences!

I have made my own translation from Danish, so some of the words may be changed, but the meaning has been preserved. I have also removed the videos, as they are in Danish. Dette indlæg er oprindeligt på dansk, læse det her (og med videoer).

“I love you, but I can’t remember who you are”

7 tips for how to help a person with dementia 

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Technology: Idify for reminiscence

Idify is a Danish company that has developed a reminiscence platform to be used by people with dementia. They hope to bring their product to the American market as well. You can check out their website for more information, give it a test run, or to purchase the service.

Jeg har også skrivet om Idify på dansk, du kan læse mit indlæg her.

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Are the Danes the happiest in the world?

Nyhavn in Copenhagen

On March 10th, 2015, I went to a lecture about if we Danes are the happiest in the world. It was a free event at the Tårnby Health Center and open to the public. 
WP_20150311_10_57_32_Pro WP_20150311_10_57_42_Pro

We are called the world’s happiest people – although several thousand Danes take medication to get out of bed, be around other people, or go to work. When is medicine the best solution and who should evaluate it?

Hear three researchers talk about stress, personality disorders, and alternative medicine.

1. The latest results in the field of stress research with Malene Friis Andersen from Copenhagen University

2. Personality disorders with clinical leader Pia Glyngdal from the Psychiatric Center in Hvidovre

3. Alternative medicine with Lasse Skovgaard from Copenhagen University

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Dementia Days 2015 in Copenhagen

The theme for Dementia Days 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark is “A dementia friendly society.” The conference takes place May 11-12 in Copenhagen and is largely targeted towards the Danish professional sector.

Dementia Days is an annual multidisciplinary conference on dementia, where more than 900 professionals from across the country meet over two days. Dementia Days appeals to both professionals and managers who work with the diagnosis, treatment, social work, and care of people with dementia. The conference is an opportunity for further training for employees and managers in health and social care. Relatives and volunteers in associations may also benefit from taking part in the conference.

The conference will begin this year with a joint symposium where participants will be inspired by Britain and the Netherlands, who are working in different ways to make society more dementia friendly. You can further choose from a number of parallel symposia:

  • Technological options
  • The digital society – a dementia friendly society?
  • Memory impairment but not dementia
  • When behavior challenges
  • Alzheimer’s disease – the latest news
  • Physical activity in the home
  • Reminiscence
  • Visual experiences and misconceptions
  • Sleep and dementia
  • Remember the relatives
  • Free lectures with news from the development and research projects