21 September is World Alzheimer's Day, when stakeholders across the globe come together to raise wider awareness of the condition, and explore ways to support people with Alzheimer's and those closest to them.

This year, the theme of World Alzheimer's Day is challenging the common stigma and stereotypes that exist around Alzheimer's.

Previous studies have found that 2 out of 3 people globally have little or no understanding of Alzheimer's, and the way that it can affect people. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's accounts for between 60 and 80% of dementia cases.

This year's World Alzheimer's Day takes place in unique circumstances, with the ongoing global pandemic creating unique challenges and barriers to overcome. Alzheimer Europe reports that about one person out of twenty over the age of 65 develops Alzheimer's, and less than one person in a thousand under the age of 65.

In April 2020, Alzheimer Europe adopted recommendations on how to best support people with Alzheimer's during these times, promoting the wellbeing of people with dementia as well as those closest to them.

Alzheimer Europe has also developed a dedicated section of their website related to the pandemic and latest news around how it impacts people with Alzheimer's.

Research published by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland in July found that 86% of carers and companions are concerned about a decline in the health of their loved one, while 58% of people with dementia report feeling “lonely”, “isolated”, “trapped” and “confined’.

Ahead of World Alzheimer's Day 2020, we spoke with two clubs in England and Germany to find out more about how they support fans with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Football has a wealth of history and memories to last a lifetime, and can play an important role. As the condition largely affects older people, it is likely that many of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's will be some of the clubs' most loyal and longest-serving supporters. Therefore it is important that football uses its unique power to offer its support.

Everton in the Community told us about their Pass on the Memories programme, and the impact it has had on over 750 people living with Alzheimer's and dementia as well as their carers and companions. Director of Health and Sport Michael Salla told us how the project uses the history of the club and the city to evoke memories and stimulate conversation, and how they have continued to support participants during the pandemic.

Hamburg SV also told us about their memory box project, using memorabilia, photos and soundtracks from the club's past to support people with Alzheimer's and dementia in sharing their memories. Project participants have the opportunity to discuss experiences as football fans, as well as memories from their day-to-day lives induced by the contents of the memory boxes.

Today, we join with others across the world in celebrating World Alzheimer's Day. It is crucially important that, now more than ever, society is mindful of the stereotypes faced by people with Alzheimer's and dementia, and how we can become more inclusive as a whole.

If you would like to discuss your ideas for projects such as Pass on the Memories or the HSV memory box project at your club, please email us at [email protected] or call +44 (0)208 065 5018.

You can also find out more about Alzheimer Europe's position on the global pandemic and its impact on people with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Please note that photographs used in this article were taken before the introduction of social distancing measures.

Published 21/9/2020