Dáil debates

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Implementation of National Dementia Strategy: Statements (Resumed)


2:20 pm

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank everyone who made a contribution, and this is clearly an issue in which everybody should have an interest. I was looking at the people who came and went from the Visitors Gallery today. Some were very small, aged between three or four years of age while others were in mid-childhood and their mid-teens. This in addition to the young adults and those of us who have gone past all those age groups. It is significant that what we are doing with the dementia strategy will affect each and every one us, whether it is as carers, people in our community or as people who suffer from the condition.

I will reply to some of the contributions, as many people raised the same issues. The €27.5 million in funding is significant and it will be divided, with mostly home-based delivery. Everybody agreed on this and we were urged to follow this route. Most of it will be delivered in the community and home. It will concern the raising of awareness, as everybody mentions, and there will be a significant element relating to research as well. Most people who know me see me as an optimist by nature. Some days, as a politician, the only way to get through the day is by being optimistic. The type of research being done on the types of dementia will ensure that although we may never find a cure - it is a degenerative process of ageing and as we live longer, certain parts of the body break down - we will find mechanisms to slow down the progress of the condition and stop the onset. That is why early diagnosis, which is a central part of this strategy, will be very important.

In my city there is research in St. Finbarr's hospital on ageing and how we age. Trinity College, Dublin, is carrying out TILDA, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. Many people have mentioned the issue of people with Down's syndrome and the fact that they develop dementia at a much younger age than the rest of the population. Within the private sector, there is research going on in pharmaceutical companies. All the research will have a significant effect on the sort of forecasting we are looking at. With the help of Atlantic Philanthropies, there is a development in St. James's Hospital of a centre of excellence for successful ageing. All that intervention and focused approach, along with the dementia strategy, will have an impact.

I listened very carefully to what Deputy O'Dowd has said. As I listened, I thought that we all want Scandinavian-type services but we do not want to pay Scandinavian-type taxes. In the middle of his contribution, Deputy O'Dowd mentioned Norway. We all want that type of service but it comes with a cost. I have met people in those circumstances as well as Deputy O'Dowd. What politicians worth their salt have not done so? It is not always about resources. Kindness, compassion and listening cost very little but sometimes we do not see that. In the instance outlined by the Deputy, there must be awareness of where to go, how that is signposted and so on.

Deputy Ó Caoláin mentioned the reports which argue this will only benefit a small number of people. We must remember as well that the €27.5 million we are talking about, which is specifically for dementia services, does not take away a person's right to other existing services. For example, there was a report in one of the national newspapers that only one in six families would have access to the service. At a certain point, one might be getting a minor home help service, and that may already be available. This is part of the jigsaw that will make up the services to be delivered. Deputy Ó Caoláin asked about renovation schemes being extended beyond 2016 but that is one of the few parts that is not my area of responsibility. I will pass his query to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, who has responsibility in this respect. General practitioners will be the gatekeepers and they will be trained.

I am delighted to constantly mention Dr. Tony Foley, who was one of the pioneers in a pilot project that is still ongoing in Kinsale. He has a complete community approach to dementia that allows people not just live in their own homes but to live in their own communities. Deputy Kelleher argued there is no long-term planning. Of all our initiatives, this is about long-term planning. It is about getting the basics right and ensuring that what we put in place will serve us well into the future. The Deputy inquired about a review, and a mid-term review is built into the strategy.

Another issue mentioned relates to age and ageing.

I was glad to see that people agreed with me and I did not have to push the door very hard. This is not about age. More than anything else, it is about a condition that can develop at a very early stage in one's life. Someone I knew quite well developed the condition at 42. While I am glad to say that happens rarely, it is something that can develop at an early age. I insisted, therefore, that this would not be about age, but about the condition. When it comes to people developing it at an earlier age, the services will be available to them. That is significant. My constant mantra is that we should stop talking about age and this is the first strategy that recognises the condition rather than the age. It has always been an issue we assumed was about us as we aged. In fact, it is not. For instance, people with Down's syndrome develop dementia at a much younger age than others. As such, the insistence must be that whether it is someone with a disability or a person in the full of their health, the condition will be treated in the same way as it is for people in later life.

I thank every Member who contributed. We can ensure in planning for dementia that the forecasts we have been given do not materialise. They will only be avoided if we are careful about how we plan for our future.


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