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Sharing how best we can look after people living with dementia: Sanna Laaksonen

Delivering cutting-edge dementia care is at the very heart of The Royal Star & Garter Homes. In this blog Sanna Laaksonen, Dementia Nurse Consultant, shares her experience of delivering informative talks in Greece about how we can better support people living with dementia.


At the beginning of the year, I gave a series of talks in Greece about Dementia Friends, an initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia that aims to transform the way people think, act and talk about it. I am a ‘Dementia Friend Champion’, which means I am trained to help others make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. This is something The Royal Star & Garter Homes does in each activity with our residents, relatives, volunteers and local communities.

Since I am originally from Finland and my husband is from Greece, I have some contacts within the Finnish community in Greece who really wanted to know more about this initiative. Last January, when the community living in Thessaloniki invited me to deliver a session on this initiative, I immediately took up this opportunity – and I also gave a talk in Athens.


The reaction to the initiative has been incredible, as there isn’t very much coverage of dementia in the Greek press. Also, there are not many nursing homes or specialised nurses to look after people living with dementia in Greece, so people are very keen to know more about the latest developments. I am very proud that at The Royal Star & Garter Homes we provide the highest level of dementia care.

Sanna with participants to one of her dementia sessions in Greece

One of the attendees in my session was Dr Magda Tsolaki, who formed the Greek Alzheimer’s Association in 1995 and the Greek Federation of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2007. After my talk, she invited me to deliver another session to her employees, so we visited a dementia day centre and her neurology department at the AHEPA University General Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Greece.


Dr Tsolaki also invited me to be part of the 11th Panhellenic Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and the 3rd Mediterranean Conference on Neurodegenerative Diseases. I participated both as a ‘Global Dementia Friend’ and as part of the launch of the new Dementia Friends Greece branch. It was great to share my experiences on the initiative in the UK, in Finland and in Greece – while also sharing my work experiences.

Sanna with resident Ned

After delivering these sessions, I received an invitation from the President of the International Women’s Organisation Greece to go to Thessaloniki and talk to their members. I also had some time at the end of the presentation to show on the screen The Royal Star & Garter Homes’ website, and I could see that the ladies couldn’t believe what they were seeing! I could hear lots of ‘gasps’ while seeing even more smiles: they were so impressed by our Homes that some people asked if we would expand to Greece.


They were all saying that, sadly, there are not any nursing home like ours in Greece. Staff are usually not trained on the excellence level we have in our Homes, and also most elderly stay in their own home supported by a non-trained person, which in turn receives only a very minimal pay. I felt sad to know that when people are not educated about dementia and don’t have access to information about how to support the person with respect and dignity, it’s the elderly who suffer in the end. However, I do feel that at least I made an impact in these ladies’ lives and know that all of the people who took part in my sessions are able to use the learning from the Dementia Friends initiative – as well as sharing information on how we can make sure people live well with dementia.