Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Implementation of National Dementia Strategy: Statements (Resumed)


1:10 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for her work in the provision of mental health support and identifying strategic expenditure in an area that was neglected for a very long time. She should also be complimented on her personal commitment to dealing with the issue and her very detailed knowledge of the subject. As is the case in any area, knowledge of a subject is of enormous help in identifying ways to deal with a problem, from which commitment follows on. Long may the Minister of State continue her work in this area.

All Deputies have dealt with families who have been affected by dementia. One issue that has come to my attention recently concerns the age range of persons affected by dementia. In some cases, very young people have been afflicted by it, by which their families are taken aback and shocked. In that context, I must refer to the importance of identifying best practice in so far as possible, not necessarily with a view to prevention but to at least addressing the issues that seem to cause dementia. The Minister of State identified some of them and they are important in the context of what must be done.

It was brought to my attention some time ago that Omega 3 had been hailed as an important element in a person's diet, but it was then discovered to be carcinogenic. As Deputies, we cannot advise on such an issue because we do not have the information required to give a considered opinion. In that context, I ask that all relevant information that would be of help to those who wish to follow a dietary regime that is complementary to good mental and physical health be put into the public domain. This is particularly important for those families with a history of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Mention was made of the importance of exercise. It is important that people realise adequate exercise does mean running ten miles every morning. We all need a reasonable amount of exercise which has been proved, beyond doubt, to be an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy diet. A good diet and sufficient exercise will ensure the brain and the body will remain active and work well together. In the context of the promotion of the proposals contained in the national dementia strategy, I ask the Minister of State to ensure the best advice is made available to the general public through the widest variety of media outlets. This will allow people to take whatever action is necessary to improve their health.

I compliment The Alzheimer's Society of Ireland on its work. A long time ago I sat on a health board and a colleague was one of the first to bring Alzhiemer's disease to attention. He spread the word in a very simple and meaningful way. He spoke about having the illness and the fact that it would not go away. In bringing the disease to the attention of the general public he did a great service, particularly in identifying the early stages of dementia. This was very influential in the formation of the health policy the Minister of State has brought to the fore and is implementing.

A great deal more remains to be done, a point on which I know the Minister of State agrees with me. In that context, great commitment at ministerial level is required.

It is crucial that a diagnosis is made at the earliest possible stage and that dementia associated illnesses are dealt with a meaningful way. From time to time we hear about behaviour that appears to be at variance with the normal behaviour of individuals with whom we are familiar. That seems to indicate a change in their mental attitudes which requires early attention in terms of medication or other treatment. We have all dealt with people whose relatives have shown sudden signs of aggression or behaviour that is out of character. It is not always easy to access suitable treatment or diagnostic services. I hope we can put in place the measures necessary to allow us to identify at an early stage behaviour that gives rise to concern among family members. In some cases, an early diagnosis can prevent loss of life or the onslaught of an illness.

I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for the commitment she has shown on this issue. I recognise, however, that the magnitude of the issue will continue to grow for some time.


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