Experience of the 33rd Alzheimer Europe Conference in Helsinki as an early career researcher

Marine Markaryan – a Doctoral Candidate at Maastricht University, Alzheimer Center Limburg

As an Early Career Researcher in dementia, I was really curious to attend the 33rd Alzheimer Europe Conference in Helsinki this fall, and this was a great experience!

For me, the highlight of Day 1 was a beautiful quotation – “Listen to us when we say “It’s not good enough”. Because it affects all of us, and it includes you” taken from the research conducted by Alzheimer Scotland, about ensuring meaningful engagement of people with the diagnosis of dementia, in the development of strategies at the national level. As a healthcare researcher who used to work in other domains and only recently joined Alzheimer Centrum Limburg (ACL) to do my dementia research, it’s inspiring to see how strong the engagement of people with the lived experience is in this field.  

Day 2 offered plenty of encouraging presentations, one of which – by Gianna Kohl and Georgina Charlesworth from the UCL – on stigma resilience. The topic of stigma is not new in the field of dementia, but not much attention has been paid to what we know about the resilience to stigma. What is it, that helps some people resist stigma, and some people suffer from its effects, in the context of dementia? Answers to these questions will help to inform future interventions.

My highlight of Day 3 was a session on the best practices in optimizing Alzheimer’s disease healthcare pathways. People with lived experience, researchers, policy-makers, and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry were invited to this session to share their achievements and views on this topic, offering a multidimensional perspective to listeners. Personally, I was fascinated by the use of AI technology and machine learning that are now being tested to find ways to speed up the diagnostics procedure so that it takes just a few days!

One thing that made my experience with ACL as an early career researcher even richer, was that it was preceded by INTERDEM activities, which included taskforce brainstorm sessions, a publication award, and other presentations. INTERDEM Taskforces cover domains such as methodology and assistive technology used in dementia research, advanced care, social health model, primary prevention, intercultural aspects and inequality in Dementia Care. The publication award was given to Joost Wammes, for the research his team has been working on, devoted to the discrete choice approach which contributes to shared decision-making in dementia care! Last but not least – I got a chance to learn about multiple opportunities offered by INTERDEM Academy to young researchers, including but not limited to joining the taskforce groups, travel grants, and the INTERDEM mentorship program.

InterDem Publication Award Winners
From left to right: Prof. Frans Verhey, Dr. Fania Dassen, Dr. Joost Wammes, Dr. Federica D’Andrea, Prof. Georgina Charlesworth, Prof. Marjolein de Vugt, Prof. Martin Orrell

Short Bio of myself:

I am a PhD researcher and I am currently working on HOMEDEM project (https://www.homedem.eu/). The overall goal of this project is to design solutions and to support people living with the diagnosis of dementia (PwD) to receive optimal care. The goal of my work within this project is to gain insight into the dynamics between a caregiver and a PwD within a  spousal couple, to co-design an intervention aimed to support the relationship within those couples and to test and implement that intervention.