Meet our Nordic Fellow Heidi Wang
Heidi is building a new resource in society for people with dementia through the organization NOEN, which positions the diagnosis of dementia as an opportunity, not an ending.
Her Changemaker journey
Norway is renowned for a highly functioning and comprehensive healthcare system, yet there are limited support and capacity for the growing numbers of people with dementia and the families and friends that surround them.
The disease of dementia goes hand in hand with denial. Due to fear, stigma, and slow onset, there is a strong incentive to rationalize away symptoms. On average, people suffer from dementia for ten to fifteen years before seeking treatment. As such, the current system is designed for late stage sufferers. In addition to this, there is a limited amount of expertise about how to treat cognitive disability that emerges with dementia, but a lot of options in terms of supporting families. As a result, a large percentage of dementia efforts ignore the patient and focus on the family around them.
From her own experience, Heidi has realized that life crisis, and the deep reflection it prompts, can ignite a powerful perspective and empathy. In response, she began NOEN—which means “someone” in Norwegian.
NOEN is designed to shift social responses to dementia, so that the person with the diagnosis is the focal point for care.
NOEN provides the type of services that envisions a world where dementia is a condition to be dealt with, rather than a “black hole,” and those who suffer from it are not considered lost and stigmatized.
Heidi is building a new resource in society for people with dementia that combines an emphasis on early diagnosis and prevention, focusing on what remains rather than what they have lost. In order to implement this vision, Heidi has designed a hand-tailored treatment program that draws on a person’s life-long qualities to place them at the center of care.
Thus, Heidi is remodeling existing societal structures to include revitalizing options provided in an accessible way for people with dementia as well as for their families. Her programs are designed around preventing, or slowing, further deterioration and allow sufferers to remain at home for years longer. Heidi’s organization, NOEN, has created a caregiving population equipped with skills to increase the quality of life.
Besides, Heidi is adding a private layer to the state system and shifting away from end-stage damage control to a focus on health outcomes, quality of life and early action.