Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 May 2015

National Dementia Strategy Implementation: Statements


11:30 am

Photo of Paudie CoffeyPaudie Coffey (Waterford, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this very important topic that transcends politics. It affects many families in this country and all over the world.

As I look around the House and the Gallery, I note we have all ages listening to this debate from schoolchildren to the elderly.

Unfortunately, most families will have a member affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease at some stage. I want to contribute to this debate because I have personal experience of close family members who have suffered from dementia. I want to put on the record my appreciation and acknowledgement of the professional health services which assisted my family and many others.

I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for bringing forward this strategy and implementation plan. It is the first strategy that will address the strong challenges dementia and Alzheimer’s present for the individuals affected and their families. A strategy is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is evaluated and monitored. Accordingly, I welcome the fact a monitoring group has been established to evaluate progress under the strategy.

The strategy will address several key areas, including home-care packages and supports for families affected by dementia. It is important we keep loved ones in their family home and environment for as long as possible. That is where they are most comfortable and stimulated most by the people they love and see every day. This will assist them in dealing with the illness and the challenges it presents. Another important area that will be addressed in the strategy is the resourcing of general practitioners in this area, as well as the other health professionals like practice nurses, who might identify the early signs of dementia when the person is in for a regular health check-up. It is important GP practices, the primary contact area, are properly resourced and the staff properly trained to recognise early signs of dementia so interventions can be made at the appropriate time.

Most importantly, the strategy will deal with public awareness which will help people recognise the challenges faced by people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and brain injuries and their families. We need to support them in as many places as possible across all sectors in society.

It is important we involve all stakeholders as early as possible which includes the individuals themselves, their families, health professionals, carers and home helps, as well as the administrators and policymakers. It is by working together that we will build capacity in our society to assist people who need help most in this area. I especially want to commend the public health and community nurses who already work in this field, supporting families in these difficult circumstances. Residential care is very important. We must ensure as many resources as possible are used to keep people in their homes.

I also want to acknowledge the work of bodies such as the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Another body that is not recognised as much in this area is the Hospice Movement. Traditionally, it has been recognised for cancer and palliative care. However, I have seen the fabulous work of the professionals in the Hospice Movement who are now working in the area of dementia, assisting families in end-of-life situations, bringing dignity to the individuals involved and keeping people at home. Recently in Waterford, the Hospice Movement held a day-long seminar on dementia and the challenges it presents. I urge support be given for further seminars across the country to assist the Hospice Movement in its work.

Professor John Nolan and his team at Waterford Institute of Technology are doing ground-breaking international research in diet and how it impacts on brain cells and how they deteriorate over time. This research is at the early stage but Professor John Nolan, a young professor only in his 30s, is developing it and attracting international interest and investment. It is focusing on how diet affects bodily function and brain nutrition, as well as how, over time, if certain supplements are included in our diet, they will help our brain cells.

Day centres for the elderly are important. I am the secretary of a community centre in my parish. It is a key area which allows early contact, social inclusion for our elderly, as well as the possibility for early signs of dementia to be picked up. They also provide activity, stimulus and social interaction for the elderly. It is important these stay centres continue to be supported through subvention grants from the Health Service Executive. Many of them would not survive if it were not for these grants and I thank the Minister of State and her Department for providing them.


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