Alzheimer Portugal was founded 32 years ago and is a nationwide private institution of social solidarity to promote the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as their family members and carers.

Unfortunately, dementia has no cure so it is important for those affected to get a diagnosis because medication helps to slow down the illness.

Support centres

Alzheimer Portugal’s Algarve branch has two support centres, one in Portimão and one in Lagoa, where they offer support, information and advice to people suffering with dementia and their families and carers. They offer all of these resources for free, Liliana Ferreira told me that they offer people information about “symptomology, training on how to care for people with dementia, resources, information on financial support, how to get a diagnosis as well as contacts of psychiatrists and neurologists.” She also added that, “people also often ask for support in terms of social responses such as facilities like nursing homes, day centres and home care.”

In addition to this, Margarida Ferreira does one on one consultations for psychological support and cognitive stimulation sessions which are offered at social rates with the price being determined by your income. “The cognitive stimulation sessions are for people with dementia, so the illness does not deteriorate as fast as it normally does with exercises to help revive the brain.”

Liliana also added that a big part of what they do is “offering support to the patient with dementia’s family members and carers and giving them coping strategies because when you have a family member with dementia, it can be very difficult for the person who is in charge of helping that person so sometimes they need psychological support which is what Margarida specialises in.”

Signs to look out for

Some of the signs to look out for are: “poor or diminished judgement, mood and personality changes, difficult in perceiving visual images and spatial relations, time and place disorientation, work or social withdrawal, language/vocabulary problems, misplacing things or putting them in inappropriate places, memory loss, difficulty in planning or solving problems, time and disorientation, difficulty in perceiving visual images and spatial relations, mood and personality changes.” If you notice any of these signs, please reach out to Algarve’s Alzheimer Portugal branch or even if you suspect a family member is going through this you can ask any questions and they will guide you through anything you may need.

Giving back to the community through Musical(mente)

Liliana told me that due to “the generous support from the expat community they have been able to grow their local support, apply for financial grants and have won the Portimão volunteers award for 2020 and the Bairro Feliz from Pingo Doce which has allowed them to create the new program of Musical(mente) which is a music stimulation group whereby they have two groups; one for Portuguese speakers and one for English speakers.

The English music session is the first of its kind for Alzheimer Portugal. The English-speaking session will take place every fortnight starting on the 7 February at 11am until 12:30pm at Centro Paroquial do Amparo in Portimão which has free participation but registration is required.

The group is led by a professional musician, that has a base song book and it will have popular songs from the past, stimulating the brain through music; “people with Dementia can take an active part in the group, either by singing or playing light instruments, which can benefit them on cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional levels; participating in the group with a carer or family member, also fortifies the bond between them and offers quality time for both.”

Liliana explained that “the music sessions will help stimulate and reactivate the brain especially through reminiscing because when people sing a song, they will remember the times they were singing and perhaps even what they were doing that day so the main aim is to bring memories alive and unlock the past in a positive way.

“It may also help people with dementia to start talking again as one of the functions that people lose is the ability to process speech.” Adding that, “I have this from my own personal experience, my grandmother had not spoken for a year, and one day my mother put on Fado and she sung that from start to finish which is incredible. Studies also show that social interactions help to prevent dementia, so it is important for people to interact socially which is why we are so happy that we will be running these groups.”

The group is also built for family members and carers as it offers them a time to unwind and it is a positive period of time which will in turn improve the day of the carer as well as the person with dementia. Margarida told me that they had their first Portuguese session of Musical(mente) and “the feedback from the carers and the patients on the day and the following days was amazing, with carers saying they felt much lighter and brought a sense of normality to their day.”

Future projects

Liliana explained that “we have planned a support group for carers in both Portuguese and English and that is going to be a group session as well led by a psychologist because you need a professional in dementia to lead the sessions. It will be an opportunity to share experiences and get tips from others at the group or the professional.”

How to support Alzheimer’s Portugal

To support their cause and help in the fight to end Alzheimer’s, Liliana told me that “you can become a member, fundraise and donations are always welcome; it is important that people know that we run the branches more or less on a yearly basis. Donations help us plan further and do more projects and make it possible to continue to help the community.” They also aim to use donations to expand to the other side of the Algarve. It is important to note that all donations to the Algarve branch and membership fees of residents in the Algarve are allocated to local initiatives for people affected by dementia living in the Algarve. You can make a donation to IBAN PT50 0035 2166 00021503230 97.

They also welcome volunteers for specific projects but they are not in need of volunteers every day. They are currently trying to gather enough volunteers for Musical(mente). If you are a local resident and would like to volunteer, please contact them directly.

For more information, please see www.alzheimerportugal.org and if you are an Algarve resident suffering with dementia or a carer, in need of support please reach out to the friendly team at your nearest support centre by calling +351 965 276 690 or emailing geral.algarve@alzheimerportugal.org.