Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 May 2015

National Dementia Strategy Implementation: Statements


11:40 am

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am pleased that within months of just launching the national dementia strategy, we are here welcoming the actual implementation of this programme, as well as the real steps and actions it will include. Politicians have been promising this for decades. Today, we are really seeing progress.

Sadly, we all know people who are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. For many, their lives are changed for ever, beyond recognition of what they once were. They should not feel isolated, alone or unsupported. Families should not feel like they have lost a loved one when that person suffering from dementia is still alive and, in many respects, well and able.

With the correct and sufficient provision of care and supports, people with dementia and Alzheimer's can continue to live a normal, happy and safe life in their own communities. It is important people with dementia can continue, when possible, to live within their own communities. This is essential for the continued happiness and well-being of both the person suffering from dementia and their families. Often, the carer of a dementia patient is also an elderly partner.

I am pleased the national dementia strategy implementation programme will represent a substantial combined investment of €27.5 million. This will include the roll-out of a much needed programme of intensive home supports and home-care packages for people with dementia. I urge the Minister to ensure this investment is wisely allocated and correctly used so the best possible outcome for people with dementia and Alzheimer's can be achieved. The welcome effect of this investment should be directly felt by the people and families who to date have felt alone, unsupported and in many cases, unnoticed.

I note this investment will go towards awareness raising, a vital point. Too many people cast dementia off as a symptom and part of their old age, as something that is inevitable and cannot be treated or assisted with. This should not be the case. Help can be sought to support and help a person cope with dementia. The problem is that so little is known about dementia. What are the signs, at what age can it begin, are there ways of preventing it and where can one find information on it? Does one get information from a GP or a district nurse? Is a contact centre or assistance group better as a first call?

Thankfully, this new programme will provide additional dementia specific resources for GPs who are the critical and initial point of contact with the health system for many people. Training materials and guidance on local services and contact points are all vital pieces of information that need to become more widely available and well-known.

Like all conditions, early diagnosis and intervention is key. A timely diagnosis can make the difference in the outcome of a person's life with dementia. This programme will thankfully promote a greater focus on timely diagnosis. By establishing a national dementia office, we are finally giving real and fair recognition of the condition. It will remove the stigma and offers people a point of contact.

I look forward to receiving the final implementation plan due in June and urge the Minister of State not to delay its implementation.


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