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Students: Focus on Ageing, and Discover Dementia Sooner

Students from the Master’s Programme in Innovation in Health Care have looked at how the City of Copenhagen can become better at identifying citizens with early-stage dementia. Their solution is a new perspective on ageing that may inspire the municipality’s health care services in the future.

The City of Copenhagen faces a challenge: Citizens with dementia are never diagnosed or are diagnosed too late. Around 5,000 citizens in the municipality suffer from dementia, but only 2,400 of them have been diagnosed. ‘Dementia is taboo, and that is one of the reasons why we fail to act or act too late on symptoms of dementia. It is a problem, because the sooner dementia is discovered, the greater are our chances of delaying the symptoms, giving the citizens a better life and a chance to stay in their own homes longer. Therefore, we need more knowledge of dementia and to detaboo dementia’, says Berit Soon Olsen, who is a consultant on dementia in the City of Copenhagen.

Dementia Is Mistaken for Ageing

A group of multinational students with various backgrounds from the Master’s Programme in Innovation in Health Care at CBS have been presented with this challenge. Throughout the spring semester the group has worked intensely on developing an innovative solution to the challenge. They recently presented their project and ideas to the persons responsible for dementia at the City of Copenhagen. The students have identified two main problems when it comes to early diagnosing.

‘The main reason why dementia is not discovered at an early stage is that it is mistaken for general ageing’, said Michelle, who made the presentation together with Mirko. In addition, the word itself can be frightening to the citizens.   Early symptoms of dementia may be the same as for other age-related diseases. Therefore, the IHC group recommends that the municipality shifts its communicative focus from dementia to ageing – to what is a part of natural ageing and what is not – in order to overcome the barrier of fear of dementia.

Better Knowledge-Sharing Across Staff Groups

The other main problem identified by the students is that the staff groups that are able to detect signs of dementia in a senior citizen are often cleaning and social and health care assistants. But they do not have the professional qualifications to make the assessment or the right contacts with which to share this knowledge. On that basis, the students suggest establishing an IT solution that may facilitate transparency and knowledge-sharing across the professions and staff groups working with the individual citizen.

The Municipality Welcomes the Wide Perspective on Dementia

The group’s work with the challenge has given the City of Copenhagen something to think about. ‘You have come really far in your effort to solve the challenge, and I welcome your suggestion of focussing on signs of normal and abnormal ageing, respectively, and not directly on dementia. This may make it easier to talk about. It is really interesting the way you have adopted a wide perspective on the area we work with every day. It is something I can take with me and use in my job’, Berit Soon Olsen said to the group after the presentation.


Facts: Master’s Programme in Innovation in Health Care

The programme was developed by CBS and the University of Copenhagen in cooperation. In connection with the second-semester innovation project cross-disciplinary groups of students strive to find solutions to concrete challenges provided by companies, hospitals in the Capital Region of Denmark and the City of Copenhagen. Read more about IHC here.

The activity is financed through:

Den Europæiske Socialfond