In contrast to the dull, greyness of Melbourne’s skies, the 8th National MND Conference
was abuzz with warmth, dynamism and a spirit of goodwill.
More than 270 delegates from State MND Associations
, allied health, community care and the broader MND community attended the conference, which was organised by MND Victoria and MND Australia. This year’s theme was ‘Care, Communication, Collaboration’.
President of MND Australia, David Ali welcomed delegates before the opening address by Kym Peake, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria.
The first keynote speaker, Dr Jim Howe, a neurologist from Calvary Health Care Bethlehem shared his thirty-eight years of experience in caring for people living with MND. He outlined just how far MND care has come with a focus on the importance of expert multidisciplinary care to prolong and improve the lives of people with MND. The multidisciplinary approach epitomises the theme of the conference – ’care’ that is underpinned by strong ‘collaboration’ and ‘communication’.
Speaking using assistive technology, Duncan Bayly together with his wife, Kat, provided a personal insight into living with MND. In conclusion, Duncan had this advice, “For me living well with MND is a bit like the themes to this conference. Take full advantage of the care and supports available to you. Collaborate and communicate with those supports to build a platform on which you can achieve your goals.”
The session on care included presentations on disease progression, genetic counselling and the hidden aspects of care in MND – incontinence, menstruation and contraception. The session wrapped up with keynote speaker, Dr Fiona Fisher, Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem who discussed the increasingly recognised issues of social cognition and social communication changes in MND.
Communication was further explored in a practical session that showcased technological tools –voice banking, eye gaze technology and Grid 3 – that can assist people living with MND to stay connected and engaged. Keynote speaker and recipient of the MND Australia Ice Bucket Challenge Grant, Professor Naomi Wray from the Queensland Brain Institute explained why many DNA samples are needed to further Australia’s contribution to international efforts in advancing understanding of the genetics of sporadic MND.
The afternoon session addressed collaboration. First up, we heard about managing pain and pressure care in people with MND. Then there was an overview of carers and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) followed by a case study on mind resilience training for carers. To finish the day on a hopeful note, Dr Bradley Turner from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health outlined the astonishing progress of genetic discoveries in recent years and how this new knowledge may lead to gene therapies to treat MND.
Between each session delegates had the opportunity to network, view posters on different aspects of MND care and speak with trade display exhibitors. Despite the dense program, delegates left the conference energised and further inspired to make a difference within the MND community.