Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 May 2015

National Dementia Strategy Implementation: Statements


11:50 am

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak on the national dementia strategy, which I welcome. It contains some excellent recommendations, but will it be implemented? When I heard the figure of €27.5 million mentioned, my instinctive reaction was to ask whether it would benefit people. That is the real question and it is something of which I have yet to be convinced. We now have a situation wherein the elderly population, which nowadays means those aged 80 and over, will rise from its current population share of 2.9% to as high as 10.2% in the coming years. We must be prepared for such an increase.

Over the next couple of years, the population of this island will rise to 5.3 million according to the European Commission's ageing strategy report. Sensible planning is therefore essential and we urgently need to proceed with this strategy. In discussing such strategies, however, we should not con people but rather ensure that everything is done properly.

The hypocrisy of some people in this debate when dealing with these issues must be challenged. As an Independent Member of the Oireachtas, I will always challenge that. For example, this morning we are talking about the dementia strategy while at the same time we have had cuts to services for adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. Nine young adults contacted me this morning from St. Michael's House in that regard.

Yesterday, we learned that Tusla has cut €81,000 from the budget of the Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency, which provides courses and support for families of those with disabilities. I know it is the responsibility of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, but taking €81,000 from an excellent project for adults with disabilities is unacceptable. This is especially so in the current climate when the recovery has started.

An even worse situation arose last week concerning a group of adults with Down's syndrome. They have been doing an excellent educational course in Trinity College, but they are short €1,000 to complete their studies. These sums are not "big bucks", so we need to get our act together. We should not exclude people with disabilities by depriving them of the services they require.

Dementia is characterised by a progressive cognitive impairment and is associated with the impairment of functional abilities and, in many cases, behavioural and psychological symptoms. Many different diseases can produce the symptoms of dementia, but Alzheimer's accounts for the majority of cases and vascular dementia is the second most common sub-type.

Despite the strong association between dementia and old age, it is not solely a disease of the elderly. Significant numbers within the overall dementia population are not old, including, for example, those with Down's syndrome. I am very conscious of this as the parent of a daughter in her mid-20s with Down's syndrome. I am also a former chairperson of the Dublin branch of Down's syndrome Ireland. People with Down's syndrome face an increased risk in this regard, which is something we must plan for in future.

It is estimated that currently there are approximately 4,000 people under the age of 65 with dementia in Ireland. We need to plan for this situation as we can see the challenges ahead. We must also ensure that those with disabilities receive the necessary services, so I hope the €27 million will be spent wisely to provide such facilities. It is unacceptable to cut funding for such services in any inclusive, democratic society.

The OECD and World Bank said recently that gross income inequality is growing. This has to be identified as a serious impediment for future economic growth. We must deal with inequality in our society, particularly when it comes to support services. I welcome the national dementia strategy and hope that it will be implemented because many people need the support of such services.


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