On Tuesday 17 December in the “Vuk Karadzic” library a panel discussion was organised, entitled „Improving interinstitutional and inter-sectoral cooperation as a way to strengthen programmes of support and assistance to families of persons diagnosed with dementia“. A large number of experts affiliated with the Belgrade town, Zvezdara and Vracar municipalities participated in the discussion striving to find the best recommendations to practically improve healthcare and social welfare for these families and their members suffering from dementia. The event was organised by Informal Network of Helpers to families of persons diagnosed with dementia, whose members include Volunteer Service of Zvezdara, Christian Humanitarian Organisation “Bread of Life” and Association “Okrilje” – all members of HumanaS network.

Prof Dr Aleksandra Milicevic Kalasic talked about the extent of the dementia epidemiology and the need to support the capacities of informal carers and their work. She also pointed out the absence of an association of families that would advocate on behalf of the persons diagnosed with dementia and would make an important partner to the healthcare and social welfare systems.

MSc. Radmila Urosevic, Head of the Social Welfare Department and Coordinator of the Volunteer Service Zvezdara talked about the efforts made by the by Informal Network of Helpers to include social partners and build the principles of integral social protection at local level, to improve interinstitutional and inter-sectoral cooperation and thus strengthen the capacities of providers of social services as well as the families of informal carers.

Slavica Stankovic, Secretary General of the Christian Humanitarian Organisation “Bread of Life” emphasised that continuity is important in all the activities Network of Helpers introduced in the last two years and that constant work with the families of persons diagnosed with dementia is paramount for producing meaningful results.

Dr Ljubica Vidic, neuropsychiatrist emphasised the importance of de-institutionalisation for all vulnerable populations, especially for those with diagnoses of mental illness and dementia. But she added that role of institutions is important as is the reciprocity and cooperation between the systems of healthcare and social welfare.

Natasa Todorovic, MPH, of the Red Cross of Serbia emphasised that at this moment it is important that professionals answer the question and take stock of what we have at this moment and what we miss, what can be considered the resources of Network of Helpers and the HumanaS network whose members are the majority of the participants of the panel discussion. She underlined that it is essential to develop advocacy concept in which the families of persons with diagnosed dementia will have an important role, talked about who should be provided the conclusions and recommendations of this panel discussion and how to develop a media plan.

Dr Irena Dzeletovic Milosevic talked about the importance of the government joining the efforts of formulating adequate response of the system to the needs of persons diagnosed with dementia and their families. She posited that it would be good if the government again appointed State Secretary dedicated to ageing and older age or coordinators for the issues in the ministries responsible for healthcare and social welfare.

Dr Slavica Golubovic, neuropsychiatrist, described an example of good practice she witnessed recently in Croatia with dementia-friendly societies that continuously organise education sessions for police force, fire fighters etc. to familiarise their members with symptoms and problems of persons diagnosed with dementia as well as good examples of providing them with support and assistance in everyday life.

The panel concluded that it is good that local governments are initiators of interinstitutional and inter-sectoral cooperation, that pluralism of service providers should be visible and accessible to the citizens, that he government should support legal private sector and work on supressing the grey market services or on converting them to legal ones, that the quality of information needs to be improved so that citizens know which entitlements they have and how to access them, that the families and the media should have a more active role in improving the quality of life of persons suffering from dementia and their family members.

This panel discussion is the continuation of the Network of Helpers activities aiming to establish a long-term model of support to families of persons diagnosed with dementia and conclusions and recommendations of the panel discussion will be forwarded to responsible ministries, secretariats, institutions, professionals, associations and the media.